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THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 

OF CALIFORNIA 

LOS ANGELES 



^ 






COACHING DAYS 



COACHING WAYS 



MACMILLAN AND CO., Limited 

LONDON . BOMBAY . CALCUTTA . MADRAS 
MELBOURNE 

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 

NEW YORK . BOSTON . CHICAGO 
DALLAS . SAN FRANCISCO 

THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, Ltd. 

TORONTO 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2007 with funding from 

Microsoft Corporation 



http://www.archive.org/details/coachingdaysandcOOtrisiala 




Th* rost-Boyt. 



COACHING DAYS 



COACHING WAYS 



BY 

W, OUTRAM TRISTRAM 



WITH 214 ILLUSTRATIONS BY 
HUGH THOMSON and HERBERT RAILTON 



MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED 

ST. MARTIN'S STREET, LONDON 

1924 



COPYRIGHT 

First Edition Uto) printed 1888. 

Second Edition (Crown 8vo) June 1893, reprinted July 1893, 1894, 1901, 1914, 1924. 

Edition de Luxe (Super Royal 8vo) 1893. 



PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN 



College 
Library 

DA 
too 

CONTENTS 

PAGE 

I. The Bath Road . . i 

II. The Exeter Road 80 

III. The Portsmouth Road 149 

IV. The Brighton Road 190 

V. The Dover Road 222 

VI. The York Road 279 

VII- The Holyhead Road 335 

Conclusion 37° 



963613 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



PAGE 



The Post-Boys Frontispiece 

Setting Out I 

The Lower Ship Inn at Reading 2 

Waiting for the Stage Coach 5 

The Bear at Reading : " its days are gone ! " 6 

A Breakdown : Taking on the Mails 1 1 

True — every word of it 12 

St. Mary's Butts, Reading 15 

A Winter Day's Amusement 19 

Newbury Bridge 21 

The Jack of Newbury 24 

The Sign of the Angel, Woolhampton 25 

Henry the Eighth and the Abbot of Reading 27 

Doctor Swift and Bolingbroke 30 

The Old Angel at Theale 32 

Courtyard of Angel, Woolhampton 34 

The King's Head, Thatcham 35 

Shaw House, Newbury 36 

Littlecote 37 

The White Hart, Thatcham 38 

Great Chatfield Manor, near Bath 39 

Littlecote Hall 41 

Haunted Room, Littlecote 44 



x LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

PACE 

The Black Bear, Hungerford 48 

The Young 'Un 50 

Old Marlborough 52 

The Castle Inn, now part of Marlborough College .... 54 

Eloped ! S7 

A Quaint Corner in Marlborough 58 

A Change of Horses 60 

The Old Market House, Marlborough 61 

Hungerford Chapel, Devizes 63 

St. John's Church, Devizes 66 

Wraxhall Manor 67 

The Bear at Devizes 70 

The Old Street in Potterne 72 

Asking the Way 73 

High Street, Bath 75 

Mass House on Bridge, Bradford-on-Avon 76 

Courtyard of the Castle and Balls 77 

The George, and H igh Street, Salisbury 80 

An Alarm by the Guard ... 84 

The Three Swans, Salisbury 87 

The Catherine Wheel, Salisbury 88 

In a Snow-drift 92 

St. Anne's Gate, Salisbury 94 

Courtyard, King's Arms, Salisbury 96 

The Meet at an Inn 99 

Giving them a Start 102 

Crane Bridge, Salisbury 103 

Putting-to the Team 104 

Courtyard of Church House, Salisbury 106 

The White Hart, at Blackwater ...» 108 

The Lion, at Blackwater 109 

At Whitchurch 109 

The Poultry Cross, Salisbury no 

The White Hart, at Hook 112 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

Courtyard, White Hart, Hook . 

The White Hart, Whitchurch 

Corridor in White Hart 

Barry Lyndon Cracks a Bottle 

A Christmas Visitor 

Quadrangle of House, Exeter 

The Elephant Inn, Exeter 

Christmas Eve 

St. Mary's Steps 

The Broken Trace 

College Hall, Exeter 

The Lunnon Coach 

Old Houses on Exe Island 

An Exeter Gable 

Paying Toll 

Forde Abbey, near Chard 

Old House at Bridport, at one time the Castle Inn 

Exeter. Charles II. hid in this House 

The White Hart, Dorchester 

Judge Jeffreys' Lodgings, Dorchester 

Charles Recognized by the Ostler 

The Packhorse, Bridport 

The George Inn, Axminster 

The Half Moon, Exeter 

Castle Arch, Guildford 

The Angel, Guildford 

Courtyard, White Hart, Guildford 

A Duel on Putney Heath 

Back of Red Lion, Guildford 

Bakers' Market House (now demolished) .... 
Birthplace of Archbishop Abbot, Guildford . . . 

Old Court, Guildford 

The Bear, Esher 

Water Gate, Wolsey's Palace, Esher 



xii LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

PAGE 

The Old Church, Esher 163 

Guildford Town Hall 165 

Courtyard of the Crown, Guildford 165 

Fireplace in Abbot's Hospital 166 

A Corner of Abbot's Hospital at Guildford 167 

Old Mill, near Guildford 168 

The Seven Thorns 171 

Charging a Snowdrift 172 

The Anchor, Liphook 176 

The Porch 177 

The Anchor, Liphook 177 

House at Petersfield, formerly the Castle Inn 180 

Racing the Mail 181 

The Jolly Drovers on Rake Hill 187 

Old Gable End in Anne of Cleves' House, at Southover ... 190 

An Old Sign at East Grinstead 191 

Regency Bucks 191 

A Snapped Pole 193 

A Visit to the Invalids 195 

The Maiden's Head, Uckfield 196 

The Village Cage, Lindfield 198 

The Star, Alfriston 199 

Fresh Teams 200 

Crowhurst Grange 202 

The White Hart, Lewes 204 

The Gossips 207 

Quaint Signs 209 

The Chequers, Maresfield 210 

Sackville College 211 

Taking up the Mails 213 

The Dorset Arms, East Grinstead 215 

The Clayton Arms, Godstone 217 

The Judges' Houses, East Grinstead 219 

The Grange, Lewes 220 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS xiii 

PAGE 

The Sign of the Swan, Southover 220 

St. John's Hospital, Canterbury 222 

The Old Tabard, Southwark 224 

The Toilet 226 

Hall Place, Bexley 227 

Cobham Hall, Rochester 229 

A Clandestine Interview 231 

The Leather Bottle, Cobham 232 

Walking up the Hill 236 

The Bull, Dartford 239 

Place House, Anne of Cleves' Manor House 240 

The Precinct Gate, Rochester 243 

The New Leader 244 

The Nuns' Houses, Rochester 245 

The Bull and Victoria, Rochester 247 

Courtyard of Bull and Victoria, Rochester 249 

Restoration House, Rochester 251 

Summerhill 253 

Town House, Ightham 254 

Gateway, Leeds Castle 256 

Old Hospital, Canterbury 257 

Butchery Lane, Canterbury 259 

Taking out the Leaders 261 

Falstaff Inn, West Gate, Canterbury 262 

A Cast Shoe 263 

The Chequers of the Hope, Canterbury 265 

Watering the Horses 267 

The Flying Horse, Canterbury 268 

The Rose, Canterbury 269 

" Springing 'em " 271 

A Roadside Inn, Hollingbourne 273 

Mote House, Ightham 275 

The Chapel 275 

Fatherly Advice 276 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



PAGE 



The Chequers, Tonbridge 277 

The Green Man, Waltham 279 

Filling the Boot 282 

An Old Corner, Smithfield 283 

The Queen's Head, Islington 285 

The Two Brewers, Ponders End 287 

At the Cross Roads 288 

The George and Vulture, Tottenham 290 

The Bell, Edmonton 291 

The Falcon and the Four Swans, Waltham 292 

The Green Dragon, Cheshunt 294 

The Roebuck. Knebworth 296 

A Coachman's Courtship 298 

The Falcon, Huntingdon 299 

Huntingdon Bridge 301 

A Morning Draught 304 

Bridge at St. Neot's 307 

Irnham Hall 308 

Driving to Catch the Mail 310 

The Fox and Hounds 312 

The George, Huntingdon 313 

Down the Hill on a Frosty Morning 314 

St. Mary's, Stamford 315 

Newark Castle 317 

The Crown, Bawtry 318 

Making the Yard Ring 319 

Bootham Bar, York 321 

The George, Stamford 323 

Stamford Town 324 

The Angel, Grantham 326 

Oriel Window in the Angel, Grantham 328 

Courtyard of the Bell, Stilton 330 

"Can I have a Night's Lodging?" 331 

The Sign of the Bell, Stilton 332 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS xv 

PACE 

The Bell, Stilton 333 

A Quaint Bay, St. Albans 335 

At the Stable Door 337 

Saddling Up 338 

Catesby's House, Ashby-St.-Legers 340 

Seeing them Off 342 

Through the Toil-Gate 343 

Saracen's Head, St. Albans 346 

Courtyard of the George, St. Albans 349 

The George and Red Lion, St. Albans 351 

Old Inn, St. Albans 354 

Porch at Dunstable 356 

Old Inn, now Farmhouse, Brickhills 358 

Courtyard of the Saracen's Head, Towcester 360 

Ford's Hospital, Coventry 362 

The Rows of Chester 364 

The Falcon and Bear, Chester 365 

The Bear and Billet, Chester 366 

The Yacht Inn 3& 6 

The End of the Journey 368 

A Performance on the Horn 374 




Setting Out 



COACHING DAYS AND 
COACHING WAYS 



I.— THE BATH ROAD 

In setting out on the Great Roads of England — 
whether in the lumbering six-inside vehicles of the 
seventeenth century, or in the light four-inside Fast 
Coaches which in about 1823 marked the meridian of 
road travelling — I propose to take an inconstant course 
of my own. And by inconstant I mean that I shall 
bind myself neither to time, place, nor consistency of 
attitude to my subject. I shall now look at it, for 



2 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

instance, in the company of Mr. Stanley Harris, Lord 
William Lennox, Captain Malet, Mr. James Hissey, and 




.-*!:. 5$~fau 



'- ::!^ 






■J* 



\ST*> 












7C 



The Lower Ship Inn at Reading 



other Knights of the Ribbons (whose experienced 
enthusiasm shines so pleasantly in such works as The 



THE BATH ROAD 3 

Coaching Age ; Coaching and Anecdotes of the Road ; A 
Drive through England, &c, &c), purely from the coach- 
man's point of view ; and then I shall look at it from the 
point of view of Miss Burney and Mr. Samuel Pepys. 
With kindred assistance I shall try to get some glimpses 
of the social life which passed to and fro between 
London and the provinces from the time when men 
began to travel, up to the time when they began to 
arrive at places, but to travel no more. I shall show our 
ancestors of all ages in all kinds of costumes — trunk 
hose, doublet and ruffles, sacks and sarcinets, periwigs 
and full-bottomed coats, beavers and top-boots, busy 
at those nothings which make travelled life — eating, 
drinking, flirting, quarrelling, delivering up their purses, 
grumbling over their bills — a motley crowd of kings, 
queens, statesmen, highwaymen, generals, poets, wits, 
fine ladies, conspirators, and coachmen. With the 
assistance of my able illustrators, I shall picture these 
worthies in all sorts of positions — on the road and off it, 
snowed up, in peril from the great waters, waiting for 
the stage coaches, &c, alighting at the inns — those inns 
for which England was once famous, with their broad 
corridors, their snug bars, their four-posted beds hung 
with silk, their sheets smelling of lavender, their choice 
cookery, their claret equal to the best that could be 
drunk in London. Here too I shall hope now and 
again to make the violet of a legend blow among the 
chops and steaks ; and besides mere chance travellers, 
to call upon some ghostly and romantic figures who 
lived near the road when in the flesh, whose residence 
by it seems to make them of it, and must have caused 
them many a time to post up and down it on business 
or pleasure bent, before grim Fate sent them posting to 
Hades. 

Any time between the years 1667 and 1670 the issue 
of some such announcement as the following made 
Londoners stare : — 

B 2 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



"FLYING MACHINE. 

" All those desirous to pass from London tc Bath, or any other 
Place on their Road, let them repair to the Bell Savage on 
Ludgate Hill in London and the White Lion at Bath, at both 
which places they may be received in a Stage Coach every 
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, which performs the whole 
journey in Three Days (if God permit), and sets forth at five 
in the Morning. 

" Passengers to pay One Pound five Shillings each, who are 
allowed to carry fourteen Pounds Weight — for all above to pay 
three halfpence per Pound." 

Bill posting was in its infancy in the days of the 
Restoration, but the above effort drew a crowd to the 
Bell Savage even at five o'clock in the morning. This 
crowd eyed the Flying Machine, drawn up in the inn 
yard ready for its flight, with a wild surmise. With 
a kindred expression they also eyed the six intrepid 
passengers who had been received into it, and their 
fourteen pounds of luggage to each man piled on 
the roof — that roof on which no passenger dared 
venture himself for fear of his neck. And the six inside 
intrepid passengers turned upon the onlookers twelve 
eyes estranged and sad. They were practised travellers 
all of them, but even for practised travelling this was a 
new departure. They had booked for Bath ; with a 
proper regard for the proviso in the advertisement, they 
had committed themselves to Providence ; but they did 
not very well know whither they were going. They 
knew however that they were going five-and-thirty 
miles a day instead of twenty, over roads called so out 
of courtesy, and the thought, now that they were seated, 
gave them melancholy pause. They felt probably as 
the passengers by the first railway train felt a century 
and a half later. They cursed the curiosity which 
pines for a new experience, and wished themselves on 
the fixed earth again. And as they did so the huzzas of 
the crowd and a supernatural jolting told them, they 
were off it. 



THE BATH ROAD 5 

The streets of that London in which woodcocks were 
killed in Regent Street, in which bears danced and bulls 




Waiting for the Stage Coach. 



were baited in Lincoln's Inn Fields, in which the dead 
cats and dogs of Westminster were shot into St. James's 



6 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

Square, were not mediums for making coach-riding a 
bed of roses — in point of fact they were in as dangerous 




The Pear at Reading: its days are gone. 



a condition as they could well be. Long before the Flying 
Machine had cleared the metropolis — the metropolis 



THE BATH ROAD 7 

which knew Chelsea as a quiet country village with a 
thousand inhabitants, Marylebone as a space where cattle 
fed and sportsmen wandered — the six inside passengers 
had been twice nearly upset and shaken out of their seven 
senses ; and it had scarcely begun its creeping passage 
over Hounslow Heath when it was stopped abruptly, 
and the six inside passengers had their six purses taken 
away. When their eyesight, temporarily obscured by 
agitation, returned to them, they recognized the French 
page of the Duke of Richmond as the author of this 
graceful feat, and having spoken strange words to the 
guard for having neglected the fleeting oppor- 
tunity presented to him for the discharge of his 
blunderbuss (which was rather wild of them, the said 
blunderbuss being a mere vehicle for the release of 
coach guards who were weary of their lives, and 
perfectly well known as such), they jolted forwards on 
their way to Bath pale and purseless. 

The French page of the Duke of Richmond will 
recompense us for their departure. Claude Duval was 
about this time in the zenith of his fame : indeed in 
1670 his brilliant career was cut short with the sudden- 
ness in character with such shooting stars, and at the 
usual time and place. To speak plainly, having 
sacrificed unduly to the rosy god of Mr. Swiveller 
at " The Hole in the Wall," in Chandos Street, the 
gallant Claude was surprised in that elegiac retreat, 
arrested without expense of blood or treasure — " and 
well it was for the bailiff and his men that he was drunk " 
— committed to Newgate, arraigned, convicted, and 
condemned, and on Friday, January 21, executed at 
Tyburn in the 27th year of his age. " A sad instance of 
the irresistible influence of the stars and the fatality of 
the climacterical years ; for Venus and Mars were in 
conjunction at the hero's birth, certain presages of good 
fortune, but of short continuance." 

He was I think the greatest of the highwaymen ; and 
lately I have read the records of most of them ; have 



8 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

admired the reckless buoyancy of their enterprising 
lives ; have thought how colourless the history of the 
roads would be without their brilliant presences. I have 
become acquainted, amongst others, with the dashing 
Augustin King, educated at Cambridge, hanged at 
Colchester ; with the great William Nevison, whose 
name still haunts the hamlets of the northern moors, 
hanged at York ; with the magnanimous Bliss, hanged at 
Salisbury ; with the Brothers Weston, the Peaces of the 
last century, who frequented the best society at 
Winchelsea, and robbed in the surrounding country, 
hanged at Tyburn — a cultured pair, whose lives were 
pleasant, and in death they were not divided ; but I 
declare that none of them — no, not Turpin himself, the 
Turpin whose ride to York has been labelled by Macaulay 
a myth — seem to me to attain to that high standard of 
elegant rascality displayed by this importation from 
France. For Claude, alas ! was not a native product. 
No, to our sorrow we say it, he was born at Domfront, in 
Normandy, a place very famous for the excellency of 
the air and the production of mercurial wits. His father 
moreover was a miller, and his mother a tailor's 
daughter. Early in life the boy was troubled with the 
stirrings of young ambition. He was wanted by the 
local police, but was out when they called. He had 
gone to Paris, where he did odd jobs for Englishmen and 
got his hand in, and in this improving exercise he 
continued till the Restoration brought him over to 
England to be a spectator of the Jubilee. He now 
entered the service of the Duke of Richmond, gamed, 
made love, drank (a vice for which his indulgent bio- 
grapher cannot pardon him, though for our part we admire 
this graceful participation in a national pastime), soon 
fell into want of money, took to padding to pay his debts, 
quickly became so accomplished in his business that in 
a proclamation for the taking several notorious highway- 
men he had the honour to be named first. How brilliant 
a rise to eminence ! What a record for a short public life ! 



THE BATH ROAD 9 

That so gifted and elegant a ruffian as this should in 
an age of gaiety and fine manners, when morality was 
never considered, have met his fate by having a cart 
pulled away from under him, is, to my thinking, a 
melancholy reflection on the ingratitude of mankind. 
Why, this was a man after Charles the Second's own heart, 
and not unlike him, except that he was better looking ! 
To do the King justice however I think he would have 
spared the highwayman if he had had his way. It was 
the judge who presided at the trial who hanged the 
accomplished Claude ; as it was the judge who with so 
flagrant a disregard for right feeling interrupted the 
solemn post-mortem celebrations, when the defunct hero 
lay in state in the " Tangiers Tavern," St. Giles, in a 
room covered with black cloth, his hearse blazing with 
escutcheons, eight wax tapers burning, and as many tall 
gentlemen with black cloaks in attendance. " Mum was 
the word, as if for fear of disturbing the sleeping lion ; 
and the night was stormy and rainy, as if the heavens 
sympathised with the ladies, echoed over their sighs, 
wept over again their tears." 

I read that as they were undressing him " in order to 
his lying in state," one of his friends — one of the tall 
gentlemen in black cloaks, that is to say — in an abstrac- 
tion natural no doubt to so solemn an occasion, and 
with a gesture full of melancholy meaning, put his hand 
in the defunct hero's pocket and produced — not his purse 
but his Dying Confession. I much regret that I cannot 
reproduce this elegant effort here. It is written in a 
blithe spirit of Christian resignation, not unmixed with 
a stoic's contempt for the pleasures of the* life he was 
leaving. It contains a surprising summary of Duval's 
good fortunes. But the concluding lines in which he so 
to speak rounds his philosophy are so truly conceived in 
the spirit of the Restoration, so faithfully reflect the 
polished manners of the times, they are quite unfit for 
publication. 

Duval was buried in the middle aisle of Covent Garden 



io COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

Church. The fair sex formed the larger part of the 
crowd which attended. Flambeaux blazed, and the hero 
was laid under a plain white marble stone, " whereon 
were curiously engraved the Du Vail arms," and under 
them written in black this epitaph : — 

"DU VALL'S EPITAPH. 

" Here lies Du Vail : Reader, if Male thou art, 
Look to thy Purse : if Female, to thy Heart. 
Much Havoc has he made of both ; for all 
Men he made stand and Women he made fall. 
The second Conqu'ror of the Norman Race 
Knights to his arms did yield and Ladies to his Face. 
Old Tyburn's glory, England's illustrious Thief, 
Du Vail the Ladies' joy: Du Vail the Ladies' Grief." 



What is an inscription in Westminster Abbey to this 
surprising offering at the tomb of genius ? " The Second 
Conqu'ror of the Norman Race." Can anything be more 
magnificent ? " Du Vail the Ladies' Grief." This sorrow 
is heavenly. Let us take our leave of this great man 
and follow the Flying Machine that he has lightened. 
We shall not have to go far to catch it up in spite of our 
digression. It has been off the Road as well as we have, 
has got into one of those ruts or rather trenches, which 
filled foreigners with strange oaths — and there it sticks 
fast — the six horses with flanks distended, the coachman 
scarlet in the face with thonging them, the guard armed 
with a stick in aid of his amiable exertions ; all powerless 
to move it. The state of the roads at this time in early 
spring and winter must have been something awful. So 
late as 1797, Middleton, in his Survey of Middlesex, 
speaking of the Oxford road at Uxbridge, observes that 
during the whole of the winter there was but one pass- 
able track on it, and that was less than six feet wide and 
was eight inches deep in fluid sludge. To be in charac- 
ter, on a sliding scale, all the rest of the road was from 
a foot to eighteen inches deep in adhesive mud, which 



THE BATH ROAD 



II 



was better. Earlier roads, more adhesive mud. And 
when snow was on the ground, more adhesive snow ; 
causing coaches to stand on their heads in snow drifts ; 
and guards with blue noses to mount the unharnessed 
leaders and " take on the mails." Small wonder then 
that in 1668 the Bath Flying Machine sticks fast and 
needs four cart horses, pressed into the service, after much 
bawling, to pull it on to firm land again. Meanwhile it 
has blocked the road for an hour to all but the fortunate 




A Breakdown i Taking oh the Mails. 

people who can afford to ride post. Amongst these 
envied ones of the earth is his Grace the Duke of Buck- 
ingham, who rides furiously by, scattering the mud far 
and wide on each side of him — his rich dress disordered 
and travel-stained, his horse covered with foam — his 
attendants spurring to keep up with his headlong pace 
and cursing the Bath Coach as they ride by it. His 
Grace is making for Cliefden, 



"The bower of wanton Shrewsbury and of Love," 



12 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

which lady's husband he has just run through the right 
breast and shoulder at Barne Elms ; her ladyship, who 




True — every "word cf it. 



now rides by the Duke's side in a page's dress, having 
shed the light of her graceful presence on the amiable 



THE BATH ROAD 13 

formality; in her office of page holding her lover's horse as 
he exchanged thrusts with her better half. Delightful 
society ! So picturesquely free from care and scruple ! 
— who would not have lived in those days ? The trav- 
ellers in the Flying Machines of Charles the Second's 
day must have seen much of that brilliant, sparkling, 
outrageous society fly by them. That seems to me to 
have been the chief advantage of the Flying Machines. 
Everybody flew by them — at least everybody who was 
worth seeing. 

This Hounslow Heath, which the Flying Machine has 
now left behind it — the creaky, mud-covered old caravan 
is drawn up now outside the Inn, at Cranford, the horses 
are in the stable feeding, the coachman with a pot of beer 
in his hand lying about his heroic resistance to six high- 
waymen — it seems to have been the province of coach- 
men at all periods to lie — (" compare, Tom," said I, " I 
think you can whistle louder, hit a horse harder, and tell 
a bigger lie than any one I ever knew" — words spoken 
to a great coachman on the Northern Road, Tom 
Hennessey by name, to which, with Spartan frankness, he 
replied, " You're right, sir,") — but this is a digression — 
the Hounslow Heath, I say, which the Flying Machine 
has left behind it, holds a prominent place at all periods 
in the Annals of the Roads. To us it is chiefly remark- 
able for its powder mills, which explode once or twice a 
year ; but besides highwaymen in Charles the Second's 
time (in the spontaneous production of which it, in all 
ages, held a high place in national esteem), it had in 
James the Second's time a camp of thirteen thousand 
men placed there to overawe the London which was ripe 
for the rebellion, and which had an exactly opposite 
effect — a visit to Hounslow Camp becoming a favourite 
holiday amusement for Londoners ; and later on in the 
great Era of Coaching, when it was the first stage out of 
London for all coaches going westward, there used to be 
kept here for the purposes of posting and coaching two 
thousand five hundred horses, which perhaps gives as 



i 4 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

good an idea of the scale of an undertaking as anything 
can. 

It has its lists of accidents too. It was not a good 
place even in the best days of the road to cross in a fog. 
The celebrated Charles Ward was an eye-witness of a 
calamity which happened in 1840 when some thick 
weather prevailed. He was bound for Bagshot and had 
to be escorted out of London by torches, " seven or 
eight Mails following one after the other, the guard of 
the foremost lighting the one following and so on till the 
last." He took three hours to do the nine miles, and on 
his way back to London, the same weather prevailing, 
he found the old Exeter Mail in a ditch. The leaders 
had come in contact with a haycart, which not un- 
naturally caused them to turn suddenly round. They 
foolishly did not stop here or all would have been well. 
No ! They broke the pole, blundered down a steep 
embankment, and brought up in the bottom of a deep 
ditch filled with mud and water. The wheelers were 
drowned and the Mail Coach pitched on the stump of a 
willow tree that hung gracefully over the scene. Mean- 
while where were the outside passengers ? They were 
throw into the meadow beyond in company with the 
coachman. The two inside passengers however re- 
mained where they were, wherever that was, and were 
extricated with some difficulty. Fortunately no one 
was injured, which, considering the somewhat mixed 
condition of men, beasts, and things, was fortunate, and 
lends some colour to the fine distinction drawn between 
railway and coaching accidents by a devotee of the 
roads : — " You got upset in a coach or chaise," he cries, 
"and there you were. You get upset in a railway, 
and where are you ? " 

The same authority discourses more of fogs on 
Hounslow Heath as follows : — 

" There were eight Mails," he writes (they ought to 
be sung, these old coaching yarns, gray legends of a life 
that has faded, and out of which much meaning has 



THE BATH ROAD 



•5 



gone, turned into Border poetry by some horsey Scott, 
so that they should possess some form at least to future 
generations who may be grappling in the central blue), 




St. Mary's Butts, Reading. 



" there were eight Mails," he writes, " that passed through 
Hounslow. The Bristol, Bath, Gloucester, and Stroud 
took the right hand road from Hounslow ; the Exeter, 



16 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

Yeovil, Poole, and • Quicksilver,' Devonport (which was 
the one I was driving), went the straight road towards 
Staines. We always saluted each other when passing 
with ' Good-night, Bill,' ' Dick,' or ' Harry,' as the case 
might be. I was once passing a Mail, mine being the 
fastest, and gave the wonted salute. A coachman 
named Downs was driving the Stroud Mail. He in- 
stantly recognised my voice, and said, ' Charley, what 
are you doing on my road ? ' It was he however who 
had made the mistake ; he had taken the Staines 
instead of the Slough Road out of Hounslow. We both 
pulled up immediately. He had to turn round and go 
back, which was a feat attended with much difficulty in 
such a fog. Had it not been for our usual salute he 
would not have discovered his mistake before reaching 
Staines." 

After leaving Cranford Bridge — where I shall leave 
the Flying Machine and its passengers, it is much too 
slow for me, considering the ground I have to get over, 
and with the help of the York House fast day coach, 
or the Bristol Mail, or the Beaufort Hunt, I shall be at 
Bath before they " inn" for the night at Reading. After 
leaving Cranford Bridge with its White Hart Inn, the 
memory of which is in the nostrils of old stage coach- 
men as a sweet-smelling savour, the Bath Road runs 
through flat pastoral country (indeed, this side of 
Reading there is hardly a rise), past Sipson Green, where 
at the Magpies post horses could be procured, past 
Longford where they couldn't, till it enters Buckingham- 
shire just before reaching Colnbrook. 

And in entering Buckinghamshire we are on classic 
ground. Every yard of the way burns with memories 
— not of broken poles, of runaway teams, of chains 
snapped and coaches running on wheelers, and like data 
of purely horsey history ; the Bath Road is not rich in 
this kind of recollection, being a flat, comfortable road 
almost as far as Newbury, and as a consequence not as 
remarkable as many others for great catastrophes, and 



THE BATH ROAD 17 

cunning coachmen ; but the memories which haunt it 
about Colnbrook no less belong, it seems to me, to its 
history ; memories of great names famous in art, fashion, 
poetry, scandal, politics, which have posted down it, 
coached down it, sauntered by its side, lived within 
touch almost of its ceaseless, hurried pulse. 

For on the right of Colnbrook is Ritchings — where 
Lord Bathurst, the pleasant, kindly Maecenas of the last 
century, loved to entertain the literary celebrities of his 
time. Round his table Addison, Steele, Pope, Prior, and 
Swift constantly gathered. An old bench in the grounds 
used to be covered with the autographs of these im- 
mortals — post-prandial mementoes of a pleasant jaunt 
from town. Here the great Congreve, fresh from some 
recent stage triumph, wrote his great name in juxta- 
position, of course, to the equally great name of some 
fine lady. It is pleasant to think of these symposiums 
of wit, poetry, and politics ; of the wine taken on the 
site of the chapel to St. Lawrence, the tutelary saint of 
Windsor forest ; of the drive back to London in the cool 
of the evening ; of the laughter which echoed to some 
forgotten good thing, which made the sixteen miles 
back to London seem six, and this part of this Bath 
Road classic. 

My Lord Bathurst, after having enjoyed the society 
of Addison, Steele, Swift, Pope, and Prior, came at the 
end of his long and cultured life to know Sterne, and in 
doing so touched hands with the wits of two generations. 
The most original of English authors, however, and the 
most misunderstood did not grace Ritchings with his 
quaint presence, at least not as Lord Bathurst's guest, 
the place having passed from his lordship's hands in 1739 
into those of the Earl of Hertford. This nobleman's 
wife continued the literary traditions of the place. She 
was the Eusebia of Dr. Watts and the Cleora of Mrs. 
Rowe. Minor poets piped about her feet and listened, 
with the enthusiasm which authors in company of their 
kind can feign so well, to her poems. For Eusebia not 

c 



18 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

only wrote poetry, but recited it too ; and this is the 
deuce, as every one knows, and as Thomson found it. 
The author of the Seasons dedicated' his poem of 
"Spring" to her; and, no doubt, according to his 
delightful custom, wandered round her garden in his 
dressing-gown, and bit off the sunny side of her peaches ; 
but when Eusebia cried, " Lend me your ears," and pro- 
duced a manuscript, the sleepy poet plied his pinions 
and betook himself to a less intellectual feast ; in point 
of fact, he went off and caroused with Eusebia's husband ; 
and of course Eusebia was annoyed. 

This dual tenancy of Ritchings has connected the Bath 
Road with some famous literary characters already — 
with, indeed, the lions of two periods and their 
jackals ; but its passage through Colnbrook connects it 
with a greater memory still. It was here — or, to speak 
more accurately, in the neighbouring village of Horton — 
that young Milton lived, from the time he was twenty- 
four to the time he was thirty. It was here, in the quiet 
Buckinghamshire hamlet, and before the shadow of 
political convulsion informed his genius with a sterner 
bent, that he gave to the world those rich fancies of a 
yet courtly Muse, which some hold still to be her most 
precious request. At Horton he wrote " Lycidas," the 
" Comus," the " Sonnet to the Nightingale," and 
probably the "Allegro" and " Penseroso." Hence it 
was that he wrote to his friend Diodati, " You ask me of 
what I am thinking. As God shall help me, of im- 
mortality ; but how shall I attain it ? My wings are 
fledging, and I meditate a flight." I like to think that 
the travellers on the Bath Road between 1634 and 1637 
may have often passed and noticed the romantic figure 
of the young poet, his fine face aflame with genius, his 
comely head bent to catch the music of the spheres. 
The ladies in the Bath Machine or the Post-Chaise of 
Charles the First's time would, I am sure, have noticed 
him ; would have awakened their sleeping husbands, 
heavy with the dinner at Cranford, and pointed him out 



THE BATH ROAD 



19 



to them ; would have looked back at him, admired him, 
wondered who he was. 

But let us get back to our horses and coachmen ; for 
the history of the Bath Road is not all a literary 
history, though, of all the great roads of England, I 
have found it the most literary road. At one end of it 
must be remembered was Bath, and to "The Bath" — 
as it was till quite lately called — jaded authors and other 




A Winter Pay's Amusement. 



literary wild fowl rushed to rouse sedentary livers. The 
Bath Road, as I say, however, has its coachmen as well 
as its poets, and they must be chronicled in their courses. 
Down this part of the road, then, where we are resting, 
the following great men, who are now, let us hope, 
driving in august procession by the Styx, exercised 
their superlative craft — Isaac Walton — not he of fishing 
fame, but the Maecenas of whips, the Braham of the 

C 2 



20 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

Bath Road — who could pick a fly off his leader's right 
eyelid with all the friendly dexterity discovered by Mr. 
Vincent Crummies ; Jack Adams, the civil and obliging 
pastor, who taught the young Etonians how to drive — 
(how schoolboys must have enjoyed coaches, by the way ; 
how the slow rate of travelling must have drawn out the 
delicious luxury of departure from the seat of learning ; 
how postponed the horrid moment of arrival ; with what 
pride the first driving lesson must have been taken on 
so conspicuous a box ; with what unerring aim peas 
must have been launched at equestrians on restive 
horses, from how great a point of vantage !) — then, to 
proceed with the catalogue of the coachmen, there was 
the gallant Jack Everett, who upset his coach near 
Marlborough, broke one of his own legs, and one also 
belonging to a female passenger, but who, disdaining an 
ignominious flight, allowed himself to be conveyed to 
the nearest surgeon in the same barrow with his victim, 
who was neither fair, fat, nor under fifty ; who, moreover, 
after uttering the ever-memorable exclamation, " I have 
often kissed a young woman, and why shouldn't I kiss 
an old one ? " suited the tender action to the candid 
word ; neither did shrieks issue from the barrow. 
Lastly, of those whom I have space left me to mention, 
Jack Stacey must not be forgotten ; one of four brothers 
who worked on the Western roads — known, all of them, 
for equal skill, courage, punctuality, and hats with brims 
destitute of all curl ; but Jack notorious above them all 
for having, for the first time on record, driven a Mail out 
of Piccadilly with more than four passengers inside. 
The deed, hateful alike to men and Mail inspectors, is 
thus pleasantly told by Mr. Stanley Harris, in his 
erudite and amusing work, The Coaching Age : 

" One night the Bath Mail was full inside all the way 
down, when a gentleman who was a regular customer 
wanted to return home to Marlborough, and there was 
no means of his getting there. Stacey held a council 
with the book-keeper, observing that it wouldn't do to 



THE BATH ROAD 21 

leave the gentleman behind as he was a regular customer, 
but how they were to get out of the dilemma neither of 
them was able to explain. Ultimately it was, I believe, 
solved by the gentleman himself getting in just as the 
mail was starting. A squeeze it must have been if they 
were small men ; but on this point I have no informa- 




Ncwbury Btidct. 



tion. Arrived at the Bear, at Maidenhead, where they 
changed, Staccy went to the coach door and said, 
• There's time for you to get a cup of coffee here, gentle- 
men, if you just like to get out.' No one moved, fearful 
that if once out he might not be able to get in again. 
In this way they travelled down to Newbury, fifty-six 



22 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

miles from London, and the end of Stacy's journey. 
They had then however seventeen miles to go on to 
Marlborough, the extra passenger's destination, and he 
got out without an>- expression of regret either on the 
part of himself or his fellow passengers at the parting." 

Here is a picture of a fearful possibility in a coach. 
Degenerate travellers of to-day, we know what glances 
of flame are exchanged, even in an hour's journey, 
between the ten occupants of a first-class special and the 
accursed eleventh who projects himself into their midst 
at the very moment when the train is moving from the 
platform. But here was an agony prolonged for seventy- 
four miles, and suffered in a sinister silence. Why that 
silence when experience would lead one to expect 
curses ? I should much like to know the secret 
history of that ride. How did the fifth passenger so 
impress his presence on his victims that they said no 
word when the coachman asked them whether they 
would like some coffee ? Did he administer some 
narcotic on entering the coach, or — those were fighting 
days — was it by knocking them " out of time " that he 
" sent them to sleep ? " 

The issue is lapped in mystery ; but much of the 
Bath Road lies beyond Colnbrook, where I have been 
pausing, and it is time to get along it. The fast coaches 
out of London soon covered the twenty-two miles to 
Reading, and there is no need for me to dawdle by the 
way. The purely coaching record is a blank. There 
was however a fine inn at Slough, where there is now a 
draughty railway station ; and at Salt Hill, six furlongs 
on, the Windmill was noted for its dinners. Here was 
also one of those unlimited establishments for the supply 
of posting horses, to be found years ago on all the great 
thoroughfares out of London. After crossing over 
Maidenhead Bridge the road enters Berkshire, and 
immediately afterwards the town of Maidenhead itself. 
An industrious curate, once resident in the town, has 
filled a large volume with its history ; but there is 



THE RATH ROAD • 23 

nothing in it ; and were it not that Royalty here first 
sets its foot on the road, we might hurry on to Maiden- 
head thicket, where we should have our purses taken. 
Such a lot, at least, would in all likelihood have been 
ours, had we travelled in the good old days, and properly 
provided. The place had such a bad reputation so far 
back as Elizabeth's time that the Vicar of Hurley, who 
did duty at Maidenhead, drew an extra salary as amends 
for having to pass it. 

In July, 1647, Charles the First was allowed, after 
several years separation, to see his children, and child- 
ren and father met at Maidenhead, at the Greyhound 
Inn. The meeting must have been a pathetic one, but 
the town was strewn with flowers and decked with green 
boughs. The united family, so soon to be so terribly 
divided, dined together, we read, and afterwards drove 
to Caversham. It must have been a pleasant journey 
that down the Reading Road, and would make, I think, 
a pretty picture ; the king, with a sad smile on his fine 
face, pale from imprisonment, the children laughing and 
talking gaily, innocent of what the Fates were pre- 
paring unseen, the stern guard of Ironsides, not unmoved 
at the sight, riding grimly behind. I wonder what 
Charles and his children talked about on that historic 
journey. Not of past troubles, I suspect. Care had 
been too constant a companion of late years to be 
chosen as a topic. I dare say that the king, who knew 
his folk-lore and his Berkshire too — and who was a 
capital story-teller if we are to believe Mr. Wills — 
simply discussed the places of interest on the road, 
and acted as cicerone to his children. It would be a 
natural event at so critical a meeting, just as it was 
natural that Heine, after careful consideration of what 
he should say to Goethe when he met him, found when 
the crisis came that he could only talk about plums ; 
and Charles if he did discuss scenery had a subject. 
Half a mile south of Maidenhead, he might have pointed 
out the spire of Bray Church, and told his children the 



24 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



story of the immortal Vicar. Perhaps at his children's 
request, he sang them a song, or perchance a ballad, 
according to prescription, though I am not quite sure 
whether one was extant at the time — probably it wasn't. 
At any rate, the Vicar alone would make a subject for 
an afternoon drive. There are few characters in English 
history that I admire more than the soft-hearted Simon 

Aleyn. This genial 
churchman had 
seen some martyrs 
burnt ; he thought 
the game was not 
worth the candle, 
and at the same 
time discovered in 
himself no particu- 
lar penchant for 
martyrdom. The 
7'??ifir K »3v : Jli |[jra&^^k raKjL' result was that he 

J ■ t) "■ hltt !• M^ttK^'^^^ was a P a P' st m 

Henry the Eighth's 

time, a Protestant 
in Edward the 
Sixth's time, a 
papist in Mary's, 
and in Elizabeth's a 
Protestant again. I 
cannot sufficiently 
admire the genial 
adroitness of this 
bending to circum- 
stance, or weary of considering what seas of precious 
blood might have been saved to England if Simon 
Aleyn's contemporaries could have added a leaven of 
his circumspection to the fury of their faith. But I do 
not think that his contemporaries thought very highly 
of poor Simon — though from all I can read, he made as 
good a vicar as many of them, and a better one than 




The Jack of Newbury. 



THE BATH ROAD 



-'5 



most. No ! they " lay low " for him in the cruellest 
manner, and asked him at the end of his life, whether, 
if he was not a turncoat, he was not an inconstant 
changeling ? But Simon, though he must have been 
about a hundred, was ready for them. " Not so," said 
he, " for I have always kept my principle." Upon this 
the wicked desired him to " go to," when he "went to" 
in the following fashion. " My principle," he said, " is 
this : to live and die the Vicar of Bray." Then his 
questioners " went too," 
and the good Simon died 
according to his prin- 
ciples in 1588. 

His genial presence 
must have passed up and 
down the London Road 
many times during his 
life, for the purpose of 
taking fresh oaths under 
varying conditions, sign- 
ing recantations and 
executing more import- 
ant commissions, and his 
jolly ghost should haunt 
it still if ghosts were not 
like stage coaches — so 
hideously out of fashion ; 
and Simon would be in 

good company too if he would walk, for the Bath Road 
is haunted, and by two of his contemporaries. 

I shall have occasion later on to remark on the curious 
way in which Henry the Eighth's name has attached 
itself to certain counties, with which, if we are to credit 
historians, for want of other pastime, he had no earthly 
connection in life. It is not surprising however that 
between Windsor and Reading, the much married and 
much whitewashed king should be the hero of every 
tale. And it is of a ghost story of which he is particu- 




Signof the Angel, W'ovlhamplon. 



26 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

larly the moving spirit — a story which I shall tell here 
because it connects another royalty with the Bath 
Road. 

In the days, then, when people used to sit round ingle 
benches and frighten each other with horrid tales to 
make an excuse for taking strong waters, travellers by 
night on the Bath Road used often to have a fright on 
this side of Reading. They met, or rather were con- 
fronted with — confronted is the proper word — two 
figures with their faces set towards London. The usual 
preliminaries in the way of hair standing on end, eyes 
shooting out of sockets, horses trembling violently and 
then running away, having been adjusted, the traveller 
looked at the apparitions and found one was a fat king 
in Lincoln green and the other a pale abbot extremely 
emaciated, having his hand pressed meaningly on the 
place where his supper ought to have been and clearly 
was not — under which presentment the two figures 
passed on towards London, the king beckoning the 
churchman. So far so good. But what occurred when 
the apparitions in a marvellously short space of time 
were seen returning Reading-wards ? Why, a change 
had come over the spirit of the dream and the order of 
the procession. The churchman rode first, and his 
complexion, so far as a ghost's can, had recovered all its 
roses — his face moreover had filled out and his priestly 
hands folded before him embraced a portly person. 
Behind him rode the fat king tossing a purse of gold 
and shaking his royal sides with paroxysms of ghostly 
inaudible laughter ! The whole thing was a mystery. 

Its key can be found in Fuller. It seems that Henry 
the Eighth one day lost his way out hunting, and as he 
had started the chase at Windsor, and found himself 
outside the Abbot of Reading's house at dinner-time, 
he must be allowed to have got some distance from his 
bearings. Clearly however the next thing was to dine, 
and this he did at the Abbot's table, the bat-eyed 
churchman having taken him for one of the Royal Guard, 



THE BATH ROAD 



27 



A sirloin was produced and the king " laid on," much 
marked of the Abbot, who had as much appetite as a 
peahen. When the roast had almost disappeared before 
the royal onslaught, the churchman could contain 
himself no longer. 

" Well fare thy heart," he exclaimed to the supposed 
man-at-arms, " for here in a cup of sack I remember 
thy master. I would give a hundred pounds on condition 
that I could feed as lustily on beef as you do. Alas ! 
my weak and queasie stomach will hardly digest the 




Henry the Eighth and the Abbot of Reading. 
" I would give £ 100 could I feed so lustily on beef as you do." 



wing of a small rabbit or chicken." How cruel a case 
of dyspepsia in the Middle Ages ! I recommend it to 
the notice of the faculty, as a proof that there is nothing 
new under the sun, not even in this " new disease that 
is stealing upon us all." Meanwhile the king pledged 
his host and departed. Some weeks after, the Abbot 
was committed to the Tower and fed for a short space 
on bread and water — a novel treatment for loss of 
appetite which threw the pious patient into the most 
horrid dejection, " yet not so empty was his body of 
food as his mind was filled with fears as to how he had 



28 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

incurred the 'king's displeasure." At the very climax 
of this emptiness a sirloin of beef was set before him, 
when the good Abbot verified the proverb that two 
hungry meals make a glutton. He in point of fact 
rivalled the king's performance at Reading, and just as 
he was wiping his mouth, out jumped the king from a 
closet. " My Lord," quoth the king, " deposit presently 
your hundred pounds of gold, or else no going hence all 
the days of your life. I have been your physician to 
cure you of your ' queasie stomach,' and here as I deserve 
I demand my fee for the same." Too replete for repartee 
the Abbot " down with his dust," and presently returned 
to Reading as somewhat lighter in purse so much more 
merry in heart than when he came thence. I hope that 
when Henry the Eighth suppressed the monasteries he 
remembered that the good Abbot had got a renewed 
digestion and left him something to buy beef with — but 
it is probable that he didn't. 

This I believe to be the right interpretation of the 
vision of the two horsemen on the Reading Road ; which 
I hope will not be considered a digression from my 
subject, because the travellers are somewhat pale and 
insubstantial, and ride by us on ghostly old horses 
instead of in a spick and span fast day coach. Every- 
thing is a subject in my eyes provided that it has 
travelled on the road, and if Henry the Eighth and his 
patient travelled on it some time since, they have at all 
events brought me to Reading, which is thirty-eight 
miles seven furlongs from Hyde Park Corner, and a 
third of the way to Bath. 

Reading has a history like many other provincial 
towns which nobody has read of. That is to say the 
usual number of Parliaments have been held there at 
which no particular measures were passed. Queen 
Elizabeth visited it six times, but seems to have omitted 
to shoot a stag during her stays : there was a siege or 
two undertaken in the Civil Wars ; and a Benedictine 
Abbey turned into a palace — the Abbey of the 



THE BATH ROAD 29 

unfortunate Abbot. What is more to the purpose 
however is that here the Flying Machines of the early 
days of coaching inned, as they called it, after the 
first of their three days' journey to Bath, and the coaches 
of the palmy days changed horses. The great Western 
Hotel now reigns of course instead of the Bear, the 
Crown, and the George ; but it was at the latter signs 
that the passengers in the Flying Machines rested their 
jolted limbs on the sheets smelling of lavender that we 
have read of, and their more hurried descendants had 
just time to drink the great drink of a tumbler of fresh 
milk, one fair lump of sugar, two tablespoonfuls of rum, 
and just a thought of nutmeg grating on the top of all, 
a trifle that could be tossed off in a minute, and, so far 
as I can read, was perpetually so being tossed off, before 
the guard applied " the yard of tin " to his lips and the 
four fresh horses whirled them off to Newbury. 

I have said that the Bath Road has appealed to me 
as being more particularly the literary road than any of 
the other five great thoroughfares out of London. The 
next thirteen miles out of Reading go to bear out this 
view. They teem with literary and romantic recollections. 
Two miles out of Reading and on the right of the road 
is Calcott House, once the seat of the Berkshire Lady. 
In the pleasant park which lies in front of the square, 
formal-looking old house, the beautiful Miss Kendrick, 
the rich, the whimsical, confronted Benjamin Child, 
Esq., Barrister-at-law — masked, rapier in hand, and 
under the pale moonlight. The lady had refused 
numberless offers of marriage made in due form. Due 
forms however were her aversion, and so seem men to 
have been, till one fine day, when 

" Being at a noble wedding 
In the famous town of Reading, 
A young gentleman she saw 
Who belonged to the law." 

In fact Benjamin Child, Esq. To him the lady sends a 
challenge unbeknownst, as Mrs. Gamp would say, to 



3° 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 




THE BATH ROAD 31 

fight a mortal duel in Calcott Park. Nor did she 
trouble to assign any cause why Child — if such lot were 
to be his — should be skewered like a chicken. This 
sounds like Dumas, but the barrister thought it meant 
business, and repaired to the place named sword in hand. 
He found the fair Miss Kendrick, masked, and still 
" unbeknownst," awaiting him, 

" ' So now take your chance,' says she, 
' Either fight or marry me. ' 
Said he, ' Madam, pray what mean ye ? 
In my life I ne'er have seen ye."' 

In fact he proposed point-blank that she should unmask, 
not perhaps caring to take a pig in a poke. The lady 
however remained firm and incognito, when the intrepid 
Child, fortified perhaps by a view of Calcott House, 
which formed a grateful background to the scene, told 
the lady that he preferred to wed her than to try her 
skill. Upon which in the twinkling of an eye he found 
himself 

" Clothed in rich attire 
Not inferior to a squire " — 

in fact master of Calcott. Fortunate man ; romantic 
times, say I. They were only so far back as 171 2. 

Two miles beyond Calcott the Bath Road runs through 
Theale, where on the Old Angel inn the traveller's 
eyes at least may be feasted. And in this neighbour- 
hood, the memory of Pope once more adds lustre to the 
way. For at Ufton Nervet lived Arabella Fermor, the 
Belinda of The Rape of the Lock. Arabella must have 
passed down the road many a time on her way from 
Ufton to Hampton Court. 

" Where mighty Anna, whom three realms obey, 
Doth sometimes counsel take and sometimes tea," * 

perhaps in the society of her celebrator ; for Pope him- 
self was frequently a visitor at Ufton. Many of his 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



most delightful letters are dated from there — letters in 
which he gives charming sketches of English country 
life in the last century, and paints the old house for us, 
with its haunted staircase, secret chambers, formal 
gardens, and the raised terrace behind it where Arabella 
must often have walked. Bucklebury, in the immediate 
neighbourhood, is associated with even greater names. 

This was the country 
seat of Bolingbroke 
the magnificent. Here 
the great statesman 
who was half Horace 
and half the elder Pitt, 
forgot the distractions 
of political intrigue in 
the smiles of Bur- 
gundy and the calm 
pleasures of country 
life. Bucklebury was 
his Sabine farm. Here 
he played the fancy 
farmer and gathered 
round him the finest 
intellects of the day. 
Swift was a constant 
visitor, and in a very 
delightful letter to 
Stella, he has drawn 
Mr. Secretary for us 
as the perfect country 
gentleman, smoking 
neighbours inquiring 




r«*=r- 



■JfcTO^ngpl 




The Old Angel at Theale. 



one or two 



his tobacco with 

after the wheat in such a field, visiting his hounds 
and calling them all by their names, he and his wife 
showing Swift up to his bedroom just in the country 
fashion. " His house," writes the author of " Gulliver," 
" is just in the midst of 3,000/. a year he had by his 
lady, who is descended from Jack of Newbury, of 



THE BATH ROAD 33 

whom books and ballads are written ; and there is an old 
picture of him in the room." 

At Woolhampton, a little over ten miles from Reading 
still stands all that is left of the Angel, a celebrated old 
posting inn, with a most curious sign, and three miles five 
furlongs further on is Thatcham. Here the passengers 
by the " New Company's elegant light four inside 
post coaches," which in the palmy days of coaching 
did the hundred and five miles from Bath to London in 
twelve hours and a half, used to dine at the King's Head. 
Here prodigies in the way of taking in provisions were 
performed in half an hour. The attack on the table 
must have been tremendous, and the tables were well 
fortified for the attack. These were the days, be it 
remembered, when English cookery was English cookery, 
unpolluted as yet with 

" Art, with poisonous honey stolen from France." 

The distinguished author of Tancred and the Treaty 
of Berlin has described the half hour for dinner at such 
an inn as the King's Head with much spirit. 

"' The coach stops here half an hour, gentlemen: dinner 
quite ready.' 

4 "Tis a delightful sound. And what a dinner ! What 
a profusion of substantial delicacies ! What mighty and 
iris-tinted rounds of beef! What vast and marble- 
veined ribs ! What gelatinous veal pies ! What colossal 
hams ! Those are evidently prize cheeses ! And how 
invigorating is the perfume of those various and 
variegated pickles ! Then the bustle emulating the 
plenty ; the ringing of bells, the clash of thoroughfare, 
the summoning of ubiquitous waiters, and the all-pervad- 
ing feeling of omnipotence from the guests, who order 
what they please to the landlord, who can produce and 
execute everything they can desire. 'Tis a wondrous 
sight ! " 

Three miles further on and we are at Newbury, or 

D 



34 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 







Courtyard of Angel, Woolhamplo 



r/ ■ J 
r 



& 



rather at Speenhamland, a kind of suburb of inns and 
posting houses which connected it with the Bath Road ; 
and at Newbury, and indeed right on to Hungerford, we 



THE BATH ROAD 



35 



are on historic ground. It is out of my province to 
describe in detail the rise and fall of the fortunes of the 
fight during those two tremendous days, September 16th, 
1643, and October 27th, 1644, when the best blood of 
England was poured out like water on Speen Hill, and 
the cause of Charles the First was upheld by an uncertain 
triumph ; nor have I space to do more than make passing 




The King's Head, Thatcham. 



mention of the famous personages in the world of history, 
romance and letters, whose memories throng the road as 
far as Hungcrford, and indeed beyond it, " thick as leaves 
in Vallombrosa." I see Charles the First dressing in the 
bow window of the drawing-room of Shaw House on the 
morning of the battle, and the divinity that hedges a king 
turning aside the rebel bullet ; and the gallant Carnarvon 
measuring the gateway with his sword to see how Essex 

D 2 



36 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



horns could pass through when they should lead him in 
as prisoner (Carnarvon's dead body came into Newbury 




™8W ; .- ■"■" 









Shaw House, Newbury. 



the same evening stretched across a horse) ; and Sunder- 
land dying sword in hand at twenty-three ; and Falkland 
the blameless, who foresaw much misery to his country, 



THE BATH ROAD 



37 



riding into the battle in the belief that he would be out 
of that misery before night ; I see the travellers on the 
Bath Road smacking their lips over the Pelican dinners, 
and losing their colour over the Pelican bill, each equally 
notorious at that great house. 

" The famous inn in Speenhamland 
That stands below the hill, 
May well be called the Pelican 
From its enormous bill," 

as Quin sang of it. On the 16th of June, 1668, Mr. 
Samuel Pepys came to " Newberry," as he spells it, and 
there dined " and 
musick : a song of 
the old courtier of 
Queene Eliza- 
beth's, and how he 
was changed upon 
the coming in of 
the King did please 
me mightily, and I 
did cause W. Hewer 
to write it out. 
Then comes the 
reckoning (forced to 
change gold), 8^. yd. 
servants, and poor 
is. 6d. So out 
and lost our way ; 
but come into it ; 

again." I do not ..„, . 

see Chaucer writ- 
ing the Canterbury 

Talcs under the oak named after him in Donnington 
Park, because, in spite of the tradition that says he 
did so, the Park did not come into the family's posses- 
sion till eighteen years after the poet's death, but 
I can see Burke, and Johnson, and Goldsmith, 




38 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



and Reynolds posting along the road towards Sand- 
ford, where they are going to stay with Mrs. 
Montagu, and I can see Evelyn eating "troutes" 
at Hungerford, and William of Orange receiving 
the commissioners of King James. This important 




The White Harte, Thatcham. 



episode in the Rebellion is graphically described by 
Macau lay : 

" On the morning of Saturday, 8th of December, 1688, 
the King's commissioners reached Hungerford. The 
Prince's bodyguard was drawn up to receive them with 
military respect. Benting welcomed them and proposed 
to conduct them immediately to his master. They 
expressed a hope that the Prince would favour them 



THE BATH ROAD 



39 



with a private audience ; but they were informed that he 
had resolved to hear them and answer them in public. 
They were ushered into his bed-chamber where they 
found him surrounded by a crowd of noblemen and 
gentlemen. Halifax, whose rank, age, and abilities 
entitled him to precedence, was spokesman. Halifax 
having explained the basis on which he and his 
colleagues were prepared to treat, put into William's 
hand a letter from the King and retired. William 
opened the letter and seemed unusually moved. 



5° 



o-'Nj 









Great Chatfuld Manor, near Bath. 



It was the first letter which he had received from his 
father-in-law since they had become avowed enemies. 
He requested the Lords and Gentlemen whom he had 
convoked on this occasion toconsult together unrestrained 
by his presence as to the answer which ought to be 
returned. To himself however he reserved the power of 
deciding in the last resort after hearing their opinion. 
He then left them and retired to Littlecote Hall, a manor 
house, situated about two miles off, and renowned down 
to our own times not more on account of its venerable 
architecture and furniture than on account of a horrible 



40 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

and mysterious crime which was perpetrated there in the 
days of the Tudors." 

I do not think that the travellers on the Bath Road, 
whether posting or coaching, knew much about " this 
horrible and mysterious crime " which has made 
Littlecote Hall and Wild Darrell notorious, till Scott 
told the story to the general world in a fine foot-note 
to Rokeby ; for Evelyn — to take one example — on his 
journey to Wiltshire, in 1654, passes the place with the 
remark that it " is a noble seat, park, and river," which 
is perfectly true, but not much to the point ; and 
Pepys — to take another — on Tuesday, June 16th, 1668, 
after paying the reckoning at the Hart at Marlborough 
— " \\s. 6d. ; and servants, 2S. ; poor is.; set out, 
and passing through a good part of this county of 
Wiltshire saw a good house of Alexander Popham's," 
and with that passes on to Newbury, where he dined, 
and heard that song of the old courtier of Queene 
Elizabeth, and how " he was changed at the coming in 
of the king," which pleased him so mightily, and to 
which I have already referred. Now we expect nothing 
but pragmatical practicalness from the delightful Samuel, 
but to call Wild Darrell's haunted home " a good house 
of Alexander Popham's," is really to touch bottom in an 
outrage on the eternal fitness of things. Worse how- 
ever remains behind. One might at least be led to 
expect mention of a romantic legend from a literary 
lady ; but Miss Burney, on her journey to Bath in 1780 
with Mrs. Thrale, viewed Littlecote's storied towers 
unmoved, that is to say if she saw them at all, and was 
not looking out of the other window of the post-chaise ; 
at all events she makes no mention of there being such 
a place in Europe, or her Diary, though she tells us 
that she slept at Maidenhead the first night, Speen Hill 
the second, the third at Devizes, and dwells on the Bear 
Inn there at great length — where we will join her in 
a quarter of an hour. 

Meanwhile it is not for me to pass with such travelled 



THE BATH ROAD 




WW* I 

( /I 






l.ittltcote Hall. 



indifference the scene of that wild story of Elizabethan 
crime and mystery, which reads even in these practical 



42 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

times like some page of horror torn out of Sheridan Le 
Fanu, and to which the great magician of the world fan- 
tastical could alone have given fit form and colour. 
Summoned by his eerie genius, with what terrible 
vividness would each incident, each actor in the buried 
infamy, rise from the dead ! The whole story would 
pass before us under a ghostly, shimmering, ghoul-like 
glamour : the midwife at Shefiford, a village seven miles 
off, waked in the dead of night, with a promise of high 
pay for her office on condition that she should be blind- 
folded ! the headlong ride through the wild weather 
behind the silent serving man ! the arrival at a large 
house which was strange to her ! the mounting of the 
long stairs, which the woman, shadowed already with 
some grim foreboding, counted carefully as she passed 
up them ! the delivery in a gloomy, richly furnished 
room of a masked lady ! the entrance of a tall man " of 
ferocious aspect," who seized the newborn child, thrust 
it into the fire that was blazing on the hearth, ground it 
under his heavy boot till it was cinders ! then the 
trembling departure of the pale spectator of the hideous 
scene, blindfolded as she had come, aghast, speechless, 
carrying a heavy bribe with her as the price of guilty 
silence, but carrying also a piece of the curtain which 
she had cut out of the bed — all this scene of horror how 
the author of Tlie Dragon Volant would have described 
it for us ! And all this horror is history ! 

The original deposition made on her death-bed by 
the midwife, whose name was Mrs. Barnes, and com- 
mitted to writing by Mr. Bridges, magistrate of Great 
Shefford is in existence to this day, and is proof beyond 
cavil. It is from this point that rumour begins. That 
rumour, backed in my opinion by damning circumstance, 
has for two hundred years connected the tragedy with 
Littlecote house and William Darrell, commonly called 
Wild Darrell, then its proprietor. It is alleged that the 
midwife's depositions set justice on the murderer's track, 
and that the fitting of the piece of curtain which Mrs. 



THE BATH ROAD 43 

Barnes had taken away with her into a rent found in 
the curtain of the Haunted Room at Littlecote, marked 
the scene of the murder. Wild Darrell was tried for 
his life, it is said, but escaped by bribing the officers of 
the law with the reversion of his large estates. But — so 
runs the rumour — the memory of his crime pursued 
him. He was haunted by ghastly spectres which he 
tried to forget in wild excesses, but which no seas of 
claret would lay. Finally as he was riding recklessly 
down the steep downs, with the scene of his atrocity in 
sight, at headlong speed, the reins loose, his body 
swaying in the saddle, pale, wild-eyed, unkempt, the 
very picture of debauched and guilty recklessness, 
tearing from the Furies of the past, that past con- 
fronted him. The apparition of a babe burning in a 
flame barred his path. The horse reared violently at 
the supernatural sight. Darrell was as violently thrown, 
and the wicked neck, which had escaped the halter by a 
bribe, was broken at last as it deserved to be. The 
stile is still shown by the country people where the 
wretched, haunted man, met his fate ; the spectres 
of the pale huntsman and his hounds often cross their 
simple paths in the gloaming of summer evenings when 
the downs loom gray and ghostly— or did cross them, 
rather, before School Boards, the franchise, the abolition 
of the smock frock, and the general improvement of 
everything on and off the earth, banished such inspiriting 
sights for ever. Wild Darrell is remembered but as a 
name now, and as a name for all that is wicked. 

And yet not quite so if we are to judge from a recent 
publication ; in point of fact " not at all so by any 
means no more," as the South Sea Islanders say when 
they have eaten a Wesleyan missionary. For we live 
in an age of the rehabilitation of condemned reputations, 
and a generation which has learnt from a German pro- 
fessor that Tiberius was an amiable potentate, and not 
a fourteen-bottle man, and from an English historian 
that Henry the Eighth was a confirmed theological 



44 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



student for whom women's society offered no charm, 
will not raise their eyebrows even when Mr. Hubert 
Hall tells them in his delightful Society in the Elizabethan 
Age (Sonnenschein & Co.), that Wild Darrell, far from 
being the monster that rumour and I have made out, 
was in point of fact a plain, courteous, much abused 
lord of wide acres, which rapacious neighbours passed 







Haunted Room, Littlecote. 



their lives in trying to take from him, and who was 
compelled as a painful consequence to ruin himself in 
Chancery law-suits. The William Darrell that Mr. Hall 
draws for us is indeed almost too good to be true. He 
bears an ominous resemblance to the " good young man 
who died," and far from roasting live children at mid- 
night and breaking his neck by furious riding, spends 



THE BATH ROAD 45 

his whole days in totting up his accounts, drawing up 
amateur legal documents to the utter confusion of his 
legal advisers, giving away estates in order that these 
documents may be heard in court, reading philosophy, 
cultivating strawberries and trout with the aid of a 
Dutch gardener (the strawberries not the trout), smoking 
tobacco, and finally dying in his bed, comfortable and 
orthodox. Mr. Hall does indeed take pity on his hero 
and permits him, with many graceful excuses, the senti- 
mental license of running away with his neighbour's 
wife (the injured husband, as is customary, coming in 
for no consideration whatever) ; but at best his hero is 
but a dowdy sort of Elizabethan Edgar Ravenswood, 
attired in a gray jerkin, with an elderly Lady Hunger- 
ford for a Lucy Ashton. 

Now all this is very sad, and bad, and mad — at least 
it will make most people feel so if their cherished 
illusions are thus ruthlessly shattered. In the present 
instance however it does not seem to me that the 
romance of private history has been deprived of a 
lawful possession, or that the wicked Wild Darrell of 
our youth, " the tall man of ferocious aspect," has been 
turned for good and all into an agricultural goody- 
goody. Nevertheless in an age when documentary 
evidence is considered everything, and all other kind of 
evidence as nothing at all, Mr. Hall's defence of Darrell 
must command respect, for it is a defence based entirely 
on a series of Darrell papers lying in the Record Office, 
which have been carefully edited, and give us as inter- 
esting a glimpse into Elizabethan country society as can 
have been got for some time. The cry of documentary 
evidence is not however one at which I stand instantly 
abashed, because I know that not only have documents 
relating to issues wherein the honour of families has 
been at stake been frequently tampered with in public 
collections, but have been found, on search being made, 
to have vanished off the face of the earth. Who sup- 
poses for instance that in our Record Office is to be 



46 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

found anything approaching even to a complete account 
of an event so important as the Gunpowder Treason ? 
Who wrote the letter to Monteagle ? and at whose 
instigation ? Was the Government cognizant before 
that letter was written of the exact nature of the con- 
spiracy ? Where are the documents which should 
point most clearly to the complicity of the Provincial 
of the English Jesuits? Echo answers "Where?" 
and will continue to answer so to the end of the 
chapter. 

It is from this point of view, though not from this 
point of view only, that Mr. Hall's defence of Darrell 
seems to me inconclusive. The Darrell papers, or rather 
such as are now in the Record Office, are all that he 
relies upon ; and the Darrell papers really have little to 
do with anything but farm accounts. Mr. Hall, in 
truth, has only got hold of one end of the stick. There 
is a lack of cause for effect, as a consequence, at the 
very basis of his argument. And the same flaw, if I 
may say so, runs through it. We are shown at the 
outset, a man at feud with all his neighbours, accused of 
one murder, suspected of another, his name a by-word 
for profligacy and something worse, and we are told 
that the only reason for this notorious reputation was 
that he was a wealthy landowner, and that his neigh- 
bours wanted to grab his farms ! As if the whole 
energies of an Elizabethan country gentleman— the 
contemporary of Raleigh, Sidney, Essex, be it remem- 
bered — were devoted to this pastoral pursuit ! Mr. 
Hall indeed would have us believe that they were ; as 
he would have us believe, as an excuse for Darrell's 
amour with Lady Hungerford, " that it was as common 
for men of his class to debauch their neighbours' wives, 
as for two yeomen to draw on each other at a country 
fair;" but surely Mr. Hall is thinking of times when 
carving-knives were made of flint-stones and authors 
lived in caves and ate each other. And the arguments 
that he adduces to prove that his hero was not the 



THE BATH ROAD 47 

ruffian that contemporary opinion made out, are really 
not conclusive at all. If Darrell, for instance, is accused 
of being a wine-bibber, we are confronted with a most 
interesting collection of menus during his last stay in 
London, from April 16th to July 14th, 1589, in which 
we find constant entry of a "pynt of clarett " in con- 
nection with " a legg of mutton," and so forth. But 
waiving the fact that the wicked squire was at this time 
playing the courtier, with a suspected reputation to keep 
up, does this formal entry for the benefit of the steward 
preclude the possibility of private drinking ? I think 
that many a confirmed drunkard's house books would 
show as temperate a return. It is that private store of 
Rhenish which does the business, which remains un- 
entered in ledgers, or if entered, appears as " dressinge 
for ye chickens." Then again, and this touches the 
root of the whole matter, Mr. Hall expressly declares 
that Darrell did not " keep a brace of painted madams 
at his own command." But has he heard of a certain 
letter dated 2 January, 1579, from Sir H. Knyvett of 
Charlton, to Sir John Thynne of Longleat, which was 
discovered by the Reverend Canon Jackson of Leigh 
Delamere, in which the writer asks Sir John Thynne to 
tell a Mr. Bonham, who was in his employ, " to inquire 
of his sister touching her usage at Will Darrell's ; the 
birth of her children ; how many there were and what 
became of them ; for that the report of the murder of 
one of them was increasing foully and would touch 
Will Darrell to the quick " ? This surely seems rather 
grave ! and does not look like " the best years of a life 
devoted to a Platonic intercourse with a highly culti- 
vated woman." Nor is Mr. Hall more satisfactory with 
regard to the alleged bribe to Sir John Popham of the 
reversion of Littlecote, to which rumour assigns the 
salvation of Darrell's neck. He looks upon it indeed, 
so far as I can judge, as a sort of Elizabethan refreshing 
fee to counsel. Will Mr. Hall tell us next that it was 
the custom of an afternoon for Elizabethan squires to 



4 8 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



convey away estates " of thousands of broad acres upon 
the famous downland of three counties," simply to 
hurry on a chancery lawsuit ? I think that even his 
able and earnest advocacy will fail to arouse such a 
belief. The truth is that the weakest point of the latest 
defence of Darrell is the graceful negligence with which 
his advocate avoids the main, the one, issue. We have 
pages of farm accounts and household expenses, all 





-^-:- "^ J"" Y J fv 



4%n\ mm 




7'ht Black Bear, Hungerford. 



very interesting and creditable, but only a contemptuous 
allusion here and there to the alleged horrible and 
mysterious crime. 

Mr. Hall, to be plain, treats the whole accusation of 
murder brought against Darrell as so much vindictive 
cackle. On what grounds it is difficult to conjecture, 
unless indeed it be that Darrell, when accused of murder 



THE BATH ROAD 49 

before the magistrates, " replied to the wild charge with 
a mournful dignity " — but so did the late Mr. William 
Palmer of Rugeley notoriety under similarly embarrass- 
ing circumstances ; and he could keep accounts as well 
as Darrell could, ay, and make a book too. I trust, 
I am sure, that the author of Society in tlie Elizabethan 
Age will give us many more charming works of the 
same kind, but he must really not try to destroy all 
romantic faith that is in us with such doubtful argu- 
ments as these. Meanwhile I wonder whether he has 
seen all those papers that Popham's agent seized 
almost before Darrell's breath was out of his body, and 
despatched in chests to London, there to await the 
arbitration promised between the respective claims of 
the Attorney-General and the Secretary of State, who 
also had a finger in this mysterious pie. Why this 
almost indecent despatch on the part of Popham 
(" faithful to the last, though wise only for himself") 
I should much like to know. I wonder ! 

In the interim I must hurry after Miss Burney and 
Mrs. Thralc, who are waiting for me all this while at 
the Bear Inn at Devizes, three and twenty miles or so 
down the road. I cannot find much to record in the 
way of history, coaching or otherwise, between Hunger- 
ford and Marlborough. The road between Newbury and 
Bath was called the " lower ground," and being remark- 
able chiefly for its hills, necessitated much skidding 
and unskidding. Nor even in the palmy days was it un 
renowned for accidents. On the contrary, the Beaufort 
Hunt fast day coach from London to Bath, run by the 
celebrated Sherman, he of the moustachios (a prodigy, 
a blasphemy I had almost said, in those days ; of the 
three old ladies also, wived in succession ; distinguished, 
moreover, for the colour of his coaches, which was 
yellow ; and for their strange shape, which was heavy, 
peculiar, and old-fashioned as Noah's Ark) — the Beaufort 
Hunt, I say, was upset in this part of the world three 
times in less than three weeks, an event, or rather a 



50 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 




The Young 'Un. 



THE BATH ROAD 51 

trilogy, which made passengers nervous, affected the 
receipts, and led to the removal from the box-seat, 
whence he had directed these acrobatic manoeuvres, of 
a so-called Captain Jones, whoever he may have been. 
From which I infer that there were coach-driving 
captains even in those days, though I have never read 
of one before. However, the captain retired into private 
life, and a young man who was a very good coachman, 
but whose name is unknown to me, though it was very 
well known on the road, reigned in his stead. This 
change of cast brought up the receipts of the Beaufort 
Hunt with a run ; places were booked three or four 
weeks in advance by passengers who wished to travel 
eleven miles an hour without breaking their necks. The 
coach became quite the fashion, crowds of people stand- 
ing about the White Lion in the Market-place at Bath 
to see it start. 

This coach used to change horses at Froxfield, three 
miles out of Hungerford, and the next stage was 
Marlborough, seven miles on ; the last two miles of the 
road skirting Savernake Forest, which is a horrible place 
to hunt in, is sixteen miles in circumference, and the 
only forest in the country in the possession of a subject, 
which seems very strange and wild. 

One begins to be ashamed of saying of English 
country towns that they stood a siege in the great 
Civil Wars, yet this must be said of Marlborough, 
which was, as a matter of fact, a most important place, 
considered from a strategical point of view, and a thorn 
for a long time in the side of the royal cause ; for it was 
not only the most notoriously disaffected town in all 
Wiltshire, remarkable for the obstinacy and malice of 
its inhabitants (why, I wonder, this strange malignancy 
on the part of the good burghers of Marlborough ?), 
but, standing as it does on the Western Road, it seriously 
menaced Charles's communications with the loyal West. 
It accordingly underwent the proverbial harmless, neces- 
sary siege, and was stormed by Wilmot in December, 

E 2 



52 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



1642. In April and November of the following year, 
Charles himself was at Marlborough, as Henry the First 




^™ m ■ ■ ■■ u^a_ v - ' •■ jC • - >■■;«.? 




0/4 Marlborough. 



was here five hundred and thirty-three years before, 
keeping Easter ; but with the royal junketings of the 
scholar king we have nothing to do, though he went to 



THE BATH ROAD 53 

Bath himself two years later, curiously enough, as we 
are going now. 

In the days of the great Roads Marlborough possessed 
in the Castle (where we will in a minute or two rest a 
while) one of the finest inns in the three kingdoms. As 
to the town itself, Evelyn, who dined there on the 9th 
of June, 1652, found it fresh built from a fire (it has had 
about four in its history), but he found nothing else in 
it, except " My Lord Seymour's house," which was after- 
wards this very same famous Castle Inn, and the Mount, 
which he climbed dejectedly for want of something 
better to do; "ascending by windings for neere halfe 
a mile," and remarking that it seemed to have been 
cast up by hand — which indeed it was by some one or 
other — weird and legendary, the betting at the present 
moment being in favour of Merlin, for lack of anybody 
better known ; while Pepys, on the 15th of June, 1668, 
after lying at the Hart, which he describes as a good 
house, walked out and found Marlborough " a pretty 
fair town only for a street or two." After which, having 
sagely observed that what was most singular was, that 
the houses on one side had their pent-houses supported 
by pillars, which made a good walk, and also, what is 
more to our purpose, that all the five coaches that came 
that day from Bath were out of the town before six, 
went to bed, and the following morning, according to 
the immortal prescription, "after paying the reckoning, 
etc., etc., set out." 

But the Castle Inn at Marlborough is the question 
after all, or rather was, for the celebrated caravansary is 
now part of the College, and ingenuous youths acquire 
the Greek accidence where their ancestors drank port 
and recalled their casualitics ; a striking example of 
what strange uses an inn may return to as well as a 
human being. The Castle however has had a threefold 
destiny, for not only has it changed from a caravansary 
into a college, but it was a nobleman's palace before it 
was a caravansary. Here lived, amongst others, a noble 



54 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



lady whose acquaintance we have made further up the 
road, to wit, Frances, Countess of Hertford, afterwards 
Duchess of Somerset, she who at Ritchings entertained 
Thomson till she found that he preferred to entertain 
himself ; though some say that it was in this very castle 







The Castle Inn, now fart of Marlborough College. 



that the august patroness to whom " Spring " was dedi- 
cated, discovered the horrid truth that her poet was, 
alas ! little better than a drunkard. And it was in her 
noble lord's society that Eusebia discoverd her bard 
carousing — that was the pity of it — no doubt in one of 
Eusebia's grottos, which, in company with cascades, 



THE BATH ROAD 55 

artificially formed, it pleased her to scatter about the 
castle grounds with a lavish and pastoral hand. With 
what divine anger must she have confronted the guilty 
pair — both their wigs off by reason of the heat — drink- 
ing punch in her pet cave ! That divine anger proved 
at all events too enduring for Thomson's powers of 
pacification. It was in vain that he piped off — 

" Hertford, fitted or to shine in courts 
With unaffected grace, or walk the plain 
With Innocence and Meditation joined 
In soft assemblage." 

In vain ! In vain ! The lady declined to listen to 
his song, " which her own season painted " (the season 
was spring by the by, but surely under the circumstance 
it ought to have been winter), and the unfortunate bard 
had to pack his portmanteau and leave the castle for ever, 
with a flea in his ear. So much for poets who prefer iced 
punch to the streams of Helicon, and so much also for 
the great Frances's connection with the castle. The 
family seat of the Seymours became an inn soon after 
this, being leased by the Northumberlands (who also 
found Marlborough slow, and preferred Alnwick) to Mr. 
Cotterell, and an inn the old place remained, with the 
reputation for being the best in England almost to the 
time when it closed its doors in 1843 and was turned 
into a public school. 

And it was an inn in the best sense of the word, an 
inn such as Macaulay describes, whose equal was not to 
be found on the Continent, whose " innkeeper, too, was 
not like other innkeepers." It was of this sort of place 
that Johnson was thinking when he declared that a chair 
in it was the throne of human felicity, though it was not 
at the Castle, Marlborough, that he spoke his great 
speech on taverns, but at the celebrated Chapel House, 
Cold Norton, in Oxfordshire, on the North-Western 
Road. But the Castle, Marlborough, might quite as 
justly have earned the advertisement. Not that it 



56 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

wanted it, for it had the advertisement of all the nobility, 
wealth, fashion of a century, that thronged, as all history 
in those days thronged, to that centre of the vale- 
tudinarian and the voluptuary, Bath. 

I should like to have the visitors' list of the Castle, 
during the days of its prime. It would be a Homeric 
catalogue of guests, compared with which the ship 
business would be commonplace. Consider that every- 
body of note in England for over a century entered 
those doors, ate, drank, slept, gamed there, grumbled 
over their bills, paid their reckoning, thronged to their 
post-chaises or coaches, and posted off Bath-wards or to 
London. Why, the mere writing of the names would 
make a history, and a more suggestive one than many 
chronicles of the kings. Chesterfield and Lady Mary 
Wortley Montagu making for scandal and the waters ; 
Walpole reclining in his chariot, meditating his ailments 
and the ancient legend of Bath ; hypochondriasis and 
antiquities usurping equal halves of that delicate, in- 
dolent brain, his nostril, curled at the horsey atmosphere 
of the old inn yard, his white hand raised in deprecating 
horror at mine host proffering refreshment on a salver as 
big as a coach-wheel ; Selwyn, most good-natured of 
voluptuaries, who however liked to see a man hanged, 
taking his ease before dinner in the inn's best room, 
while his delightful chaplain, Dr. Warner, who had 
Rabelais and Horace at his finger ends, is busy below 
with the ccllarman, assuring himself of the quality of 
his patron's claret ; Sheridan running away with his 
beautiful wife ; Garrick posting to Bath in search of 
new talent and to depreciate Barry ; Byron (already 
on his biscuit and soda-water regime) eyeing the bill 
of fare misanthropically ; and Brummell incubating a 
new cravat ; and Gentleman Jackson surrounded by his 
backers on his way to a prize fight. But why proceed 
with the list ? The names of the visitors at this cele- 
brated inn are written in the letters and diaries of three 
generations. 



THE BATH ROAD 



57 



Of all the great people who put up at the Castle in 
the days of its prime, perhaps the greatest of them, as 
is meet and right, has left the most lasting impression 
behind him. But he did so by rather out-of-the-way 
means, and advertised himself as a great statesman, not 
indeed at all more than is customary at the present day, 
but with a naive absence of affectation that raises a 



i£& saBn *2&lk t 




Eloped l 



smile. There were no paragraphists in the land in those 
times, be it remembered, to announce to an expectant 
world that a prime minister had cut a tree down, or read 
the first lesson in church ; so Lord Chatham having 
been attacked by gout on his way from Bath to London, 
in 1762, took a more picturesque way of acquainting 
his countrymen with his whereabouts. He made it an 
insistive condition to his staying at the Castle that every 



58 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



servant in the place from the waiter to the stable boy- 
should wear his livery. Now I do not know what the 
livery of the noble Lord was, but it was very well known 
to the England of his day, and as gout kept him in his 
room at the Castle for several weeks, and as the establish- 
ment of that inn (temporarily clothed as his servants) 
was the largest in England, the good town of Marl- 




n 



A Quaint Corner in Marlborough. 

borough simply exhaled its distinguished visitor. People 
ran against his attendants at every turn. The streets 
swarmed with them. The inn was alive. The name 
of Chatham was on every lip, and the great tide of travel 
which ebbed and flowed night and day along the Bath 
road, carried the strange news to the uttermost parts of 
the kingdom. 



THE BATH ROAD 59 

So political celebrities advertised themselves before 
the Daily TelegrapJi was, or editors of fashionable papers 
wanted copy — but I must get on to Devizes. 

The fourteen miles odd between this town and Marl- 
borough is sacred to the antiquary, who delights to dig 
up mounds on plains, and discover two human skeletons 
or more in a sitting posture, and two laid horizontally as 
the case may be, which is what was done at West 
Kennctt, four and a quarter miles down the road. At 
this West Kennett, to complete the celebrity of the spot, 
is made and stored the celebrated West Kennett Ale, 
and that it is also drunk here in large quantities, is not 
beyond the pale of reasonable human hope. The 
travellers on the once thronged Bath Road, now as 
deserted, alas ! as the old Roman highway which here 
coincides with it, took a good deal of this ale, 1 suspect 
(if it was brewed in those days, of which fact I am not 
certain), to fortify themselves against down air ; and at 
the same time no doubt some antiquary, perched on the 
box-seat with pince-nez pinched firmly on red nose, ob- 
served Silbury Hill immediately on the left of the road, 
which some sages suppose to be posterior to the Roman 
invasion, and some anterior to it, but which is the biggest 
artificial hill in Europe, and is indeed " very fine and 
large." 

Now Beckhampton Inn looms in sight. Here the 
Beaufort Hunt, and all the principal coaches changed 
horses, passengers refreshed the inner man, and the 
different roads to Bath diverged. The Beaufort Hunt 
and other fast coaches going by Cherhill, Calne and 
Chippenham, making the whole distance from town 105 
miles 6 furlongs ; other coaches less known taking the 
next shortest cut by Sandy Lane and Bowdon Hill to 
Lacock. Here there is an Abbey with a romance at- 
tached to it, which tells how a young Jady, discoursing 
one night to her lover from the battlements of the Abbey 
church, though strictly forbidden to do so by her papa, 
remarked " I will leap down to you " (which was surely 



6o 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 




A Change of Hones. 



very unwise), and leapt. The wind came to the rescue 
and " got under her coates," (the ulster I presume of the 



THE BATH ROAD 



Si 



i 6th century) and thus assisted, the young lady, whose 
name was Sherington, flopped into the arms of the young 
man, whose name was Talbot, and killed him to all ap- 
pearances fatally dead on the spot, at which she sat 
down and wept. Upon this the defunct Talbot, who 
had been only temporarily deprived of breath, came to 



':- '*^0^ x ~" '. ■■■ 




The Old Market House, Marlborough. 

life again, and at the same moment the lady's father, 
with a fine instinct for a melodramatic situation, jumped 
out of a bush and observed, that " as his daughter had 
made such a leap to him she should e'en marry him," 
meaning Talbot, which was rather obscure, but exactly 
what the young lady wanted, and married she was to 
Talbot, whose Christian name was John, brought him 



62 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

the Abbey as a dowry, and lived happy ever after. 
Leaving Lacock behind, the coaches which took this 
second route from Beckhampton passed through 
Corsham, Pcckwick Box, and Batheaston, where they 
entered Somersetshire, and so into Bath, making the 
whole distance from London io6| miles. 

The third route however is the one which I shall follow 
more closely, not because it is a mile longer than the 
last (on the map it looks five miles longer at the very 
least, but this is a geographical optical delusion), but 
because it was the route of the Bath mail particularly 
as distinguished from the Bristol, and because it passes 
through Devizes, where there is or was, a celebrated inn 
at which two distinguished travellers, in the persons of 
Miss Burncy and Mrs. Thrale, have all this long while 
been waiting for me. But I have not got there yet. 
After leaving Beckhampton, and not going to Avebury 
on the right of the right of the road, which is a re- 
markable temple after the manner of Stonehenge, 
which some suppose to have -been built in the time of 
Abraham, whenever that may have been, and some 
modestly proclaim a Serpent's Temple. 

" Now o'er true Roman way our horses sound," 

as Gay sings ; and three miles and a half or so from 
Beckhampton the road runs through Wandsditch (per- 
haps Wans Dyke will be preferred by etymologists), 
which magnificent earthwork was, according to Dr. 
Guest, the last frontier of the Belgic province, and can 
be traced through Wiltshire for nineteen miles. All 
about here the Bath Road is as exposed as an ancient 
Briton or Beige could wish it to be ; but for warmer and 
more modern fancies it is not a good place for a kilt. 
To tell the truth it blows on these downs confoundedly, 
and here all coaches which were about in the great snow- 
storm of 1836 wished they were out of it. Nor does 
the present appearance of Shepherd's Shore, a lone house 



THE BATH ROAD 



63 



standing by the roadside, look as if it could have proffered 
much in the way of shelter ; yet this is the last stage of 
all, of an inn, which, like Winterslow Hut on the Exeter 




Hungtrford Chapel, Devixei. 



Road, has had its day, and which, when that day was 
in the ascendant, gave shelter and refreshment to any 
number who wanted it. 

It is in standing by such a deserted relic of bygone 



64 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

days as this, in looking up and down the silent coach 
road — that great artery which once gave Shepherd's 
Shore life, and which is now as empty as the heart which 
it fed — that we get some sense of the poetry of the old 
coaching days, some perception of the gulf which sepa- 
rates our manners and our methods from theirs ; the 
difference, indeed, which lies between travelling to a 
place with such due pauses for romance and adventure 
as were provided in the old days of posting and flying 
machines, and arriving at a place with no pauses at all 
save for collecting tickets — which are not always to be 
found — as are provided for by our limited mails and fly- 
ing Dutchmen. For it was this very deliberation of our 
ancestors which has given to such inns as this Shepherd's 
Shore on the great roads, much of their historic charm 
— a deliberation which permitted these old houses to 
catch, if I may say so, something of the personality of the 
great people, whether kings, queens, highwaymen, con- 
spirators, or coachmen, who halted at their hospitable 
doors, dined at their liberal tables, or passed by them at 
that decorous speed of from five to nine miles an hour, 
which, even without a stoppage, permitted however faintly 
some sort of individual impression. And what sort of 
individual impression, may I ask, can a distinguished 
traveller to Bath in these days — whether statesman, on 
his way to the waters, or modern highwayman, armed 
with the three-card-trick (we live in degenerate days !), 
or conspirator, fresh from Parliament — make, let us say 
on Reading, whose platform he can only just see as he 
whizzes by it ; or on Swindon, in whose refreshment-room 
he has five minutes in which to bolt hot soup ? Why, he 
makes no impression at all, and his characterless transit 
from one spot to the other (to call it a journey might 
raise the indignant ghost of some great departed coach- 
man) will remain ignored and unrecorded for ever. 

Yes ! Railway days and Railway ways, or rather the 
romance of them will not be written even when posterity 
has taken to balloons, for the hurry of the concern is 



THE BATH ROAD 65 

not only fatal to romance, but is fatal to any collection 
of it, if any romance at any period existed ; and some 
sort of prophetic insight into this truth, a sort of sad per- 
ception of what posterity, by its rejection of stage coaches, 
would be eternally bereft, breathes through- the .following 
threnody of a great coachman, whose poetic heart could 
not remain silent under the introduction of the new gods, 
but whose name, as Keats supposed his to be, is writ in 
water, or perhaps in rum and water, which would in this 
case be a fitter emblem of efifacement. 

" Them," he cries, with a fine directness of pathos, 
" them as 'ave seen coaches afore rails came into fashion 
'ave seen something worth remembering ! Them was 
'appy days for old England, afore reform and rails turned 
everything upside down, and men rode, as nature intended 
they should, on pikes, with coaches and smart active 
cattle, and not by machinery like bags of cotton and 
hardware. But coaches is done for ever, and a heavy 
blow it is ! They was the pride of the country ; there 
wasn't anything like them, as I've 'eerd gemmen say 
from forrin parts, to be found nowhere, nor never will 
again." 

To descend from these high regions of prophecy and 
metaphor to firm earth again, the Bath Road, after leaving 
Shepherd's Shore, runs through a district whose in- 
habitants must have been regarded by the drivers of Mr. 
Thomas Cooper's coaches between London and Bath 
with appreciative eyes ; for the Wiltshire men resident 
between Shepherd's Shore and Devizes have been 
notorious through all ages for being " very fine and 
large," as were Mr. Thomas Cooper's coachmen. The 
inhabitants, indeed, of Bishop's Canning, a village about 
three miles from Devizes, might, in the seventeenth 
century, according to Aubrey, have challenged all 
England to the exquisitely diversive exercises of music 
and football. In James the First's time the village 
boasted a peculiarly musical vicar, one George Ferraby, 
who I trust played football as well as he played the lute, 

F 



66 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 







- & 

: J 






'*$&!?'. 



St. John's Church, Dcvittt. 



THE BATH ROAD 



67 



armed with which instrument and attired in the costume 
of a druid bard (lenl by the local costumier of the day), 
he, at the head of his parishioners, disguised for their 
part as shepherds, assaulted the ears of Queen Anne of 
Denmark at the Wansdyke, in April, 161 3, with a four- 
part song of his own composing. Let me hope that it 
was not as windy an April day on those downs as I have 










" -A 



Wraxhall Manor. 



known it, or our reverend druid must have cursed his 
ancestors' airy taste in costume ; and our royal Solomon 
himself, who on this occasion accompanied his queen, 
would have found a pipe of that tobacco, which he had 
lately counter-blasted, greatly beneficial to his health. I 
make no doubt that Queen Anne herself caught a cold 
in the head, but she was gracious enough notwithstand- 

F 2 



68 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

ing to express her great liking and content to the 
Reverend George Ferraby, and her ladies joined their 
congratulations to hers, though they had no doubt caught 
colds too. 

The practised enthusiasm of these Wiltshire musicians 
found fresh vent in 1702, when, on the occasion of the 
second Queen Anne's return from Bath, they indulged 
themselves and their august audience with another 
musical junketing, this time however according to the 
pamphlet in the British Museum, accompanied with a 
less scrupulous regard to archaeological correctness in 
costume. The Reverend George Ferraby, being dead 
many years, no longer stage-managed the ceremonial, 
nor did he, unless as a spirit, indulge in choryambic 
exercises at the head of his parishioners, lightly attired 
as a druid. A more simply pastoral atmosphere con- 
sequently prevailed. The pamphlet I have referred to 
thus describes the scene : — 

" Her Majesty and her Royal attendants passed over 
the downs in Wiltshire, where they were met by a great 
number of Shepherds from all parts of the country, all 
dressed in their long, coarse white cloaks with their crooks, 
shepherd scrips, and Tarboxes, playing all the way 
they marched upon their pipes of Reeds, humbly pre- 
senting themselves to her Majesty ; who was pleased to 
hear their country Songs and Musick with a great deal 
of Satisfaction, and as a Demonstration of Her Royal 
Acceptance of their Duty, was pleased as a mark of 
her condescending Goodness and Bounty to give 20 or 
30 guineas among 'cm, which they received with repeated 
acknowledgments of loud and repeated prayers and ac- 
clamations for Her Majesty's Long Life and Prosperity : 
after which a great number of Spinners with their 
Spinning Wheels presented themselves before her 
Majesty, and were favourably received, and tasted very 
liberally of Her Majesty's bounty." 

" And so on to Bath," as Pepys would have said, and 
as I must be going. 



THE BATH ROAD 69 

I have first however to pause a while at Devizes, 88f 
miles from Hyde Park Corner, a town famous in coaching 
days, and whose name has long been the subject of dis- 
cussion among the learned. What however is in a name, 
when one thinks that no less persons than Miss Burney 
and Mrs. Thrale have been waiting for me at the famous 
Bear Inn ever since the beginning of the chapter? 
Coachmen remember this famous house principally for 
its fine stables. Memoir hunters know it best probably 
from the diary of the lady who has so long been waiting 
for us, and from her meeting there with a young gentle- 
man, son of the landlord, destined afterwards to be as great 
a celebrity as her own fair self. 

To be plain, at this Bear Inn at Devizes in April, 1780, 
Miss Burney met the future Sir Thomas Lawrence — the 
portrait-painter of a whole generation of court beauties — 
clothed in knickerbockers, and with a precocity for catch- 
ing likenesses, not often found in an inn. Miss Burney 
and her friend, in their journey from London, posting — 
which was after all the equivalent to first-class travelling 
in those days, coaching being the second-class compart- 
ment of the then travelling scheme, and riding in damp 
straw at the bottom of stage waggons drawn by six 
horses, the third — Miss Burney and her friend, I say, 
posting from London, stopped for the first night at 
Maidenhead, the second at Speen Hill, and for the third 
put up at the same Bear Inn at Devizes. Here a strange 
series of accidents befel them, which the fair diarist 
elaborately describes. Having observed that the inn was 
full of books as well as paintings, drawings, and music, 
and that their hostess, Mrs. Lawrence, seemed something 
above her station in her inn, the two visitors, according to 
habitual contemporary prescription, and before supper, 
sat down to cards. I wonder, after reading our ancestors' 
feats in this line, that aces are not found stamped on the 
persons of all the present generation. But this is a 
psychological digression. It is now that Miss Burney's 
adventures at the inn began. Scarcely had she and Mrs. 



7° 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



Thrale warmed to their work when their artistic ab- 
straction was surprised by the sound of a pianoforte. 




The Bear at Devizes. 



This, at first, in the way of an interruption at an inn, may 
strike my readers in the words of the Laureate as 

" New-old, and shadowing sense at war with soul." 



THE BATH ROAD 71 

Miss Burney however, who had not the advantage of 
reading Tennyson, jumped up and ran to listen whence 
the sound proceeded. She found it came from the 
next room, where the overture to the Buono Figliuola 
was being performed — a piece not often heard, so far as 
I can learn, at the Promenade Concerts, Covent Garden. 
Mrs. Thrale however though hardly for this reason, 
determined to know from whom it came, and tapped at 
the door. And who confronted her when it was opened ? 
A young highwayman of the Paul Clifford type, with pale 
face, eyes full of music, and pockets full of pistols ? Not 
at all. But a very handsome girl with fine dark hair upon 
a finely-formed forehead ; and at the same moment 
another girl advanced, and obligingly and gracefully 
invited the intruders in and gave them chairs. And who 
were these houris ? Miss Burney soon discovered that 
they were the daughters of the hostess and born and bred 
at Devizes. " Oh, what a surprise ! " 

" But though these pretty girls struck us much," she 
writes, " the wonder of the family was yet to be pro- 
duced. This was their brother, a most lovely boy of ten 
years of age, who seems to be not merely the wonder of 
their family, but of the times, for his astonishing skill at 
drawing. They protest he has never had any instruc- 
tion, yet showed us some of his productions, that were 
really beautiful." 

The future Sir Thomas had ample opportunities at 
the Bear for keeping his hand in. His father used to use 
him now as a stimulant to his guests, now as a sedative. 
Instead of offering lame excuses when the roast had 
gone wrong, or saying that a bad bottle of claret was 
simply " sick from a journey," this original in the way 
of a host, used simply to introduce his son to the 
malcontents, and in a moment where there had been 
disgust there was wonder. At the simple talisman, 
" Gentlemen, here's my son ; will you have him recite 
from the poets or take your portraits ? " the most con- 
firmed bald-headed grumbler ceased his monotonous 



72 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



drone, and the storm in the coffee-room fell before the 
smile of the young genius. 

I shall go on with Miss Bumey and Mrs. Thrale to 
Bath in their post-chaise instead of waiting sixty years 
later for the Monarch, or one of Thomas Cooper, 
Esquire's fast day coaches, not only because the ladies 
went by the old Bath Road, on which I propose to 




' lvt*k 



The Old Strut in Potternt. 



travel, but for the further reason that they met during 
their stay at Bath some unhackneyed society to which 
I should like to make my readers known. 

Miss Bumey however, I observe in her memoirs, 
declares her intention of "skipping to our arrival at this 
beautiful city," meaning Bath, and I am not certain that 
there is much reason for not following in her diary- 



THE BATH ROAD 



73 




Atkingtlu ll'ay. 



74 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

writing wake, for there is not much in Trowbridge or 
Bradford to chronicle, though Seend, about three miles 
before the first-mentioned place, or rather Poulshot, 
which lies on the left before reaching Seend, is con- 
nected with an atmospheric catastrophe and a celebrated 
character. In the vicarage at Poulshot lived the son of 
the great Izaak Walton, he whom Byron (who was no 
angler) would fain have seen impaled upon a hook in 
the manner prescribed by the great fisherman for spring 
frogs ; and to the same vicarage, as guest of the great 
fisherman's son, came the good Bishop Ken, his uncle, 
" with all his coach-horses, and as many of his saddle- 
horses as he could bring," to prevent their being seized 
by the invading force of William of Orange. 

Poulshot vicarage gave the good bishop shelter from 
other troubles than that revolution, for, in 1703, while 
Ken was sleeping under his nephew's roof, the " Great 
Storm," sung by Addison, broke* over the country and 
buried Bishop Kidder and his wife, (who had usurped 
Ken's place at Wells) even in the episcopal palace. 
The deposed bishop lay awake in Poulshot vicarage 
meanwhile escaping all harm, though the beam which 
supported the roof over his head, was shaken out to 
that degree, that at the conclusion of the hurricane it 
had but an inch to hold. 

My readers will not probably be unprepared to learn 
that the name of the town of Trowbridge, 96 miles from 
Hyde Park Corner, has much perplexed etymologists, 
but they will remember that the poet Crabbe (who 
ought to have been a three-volume novelist) was vicar 
of the place ; with which mention I may leave the plain- 
looking town behind, and passing through Bradford with 
all convenient speed, and, still in the company of Miss 
Burney and Mrs. Thrale, go, by Walcot into Bath, which 
is \oj\ miles from Hyde Park Corner, and according to 
Walter Savage Landor, the next most beautiful city in 
the world to Florence. 

In 1780 Miss Burney was much of the same opinion 



THE BATH ROAD 



75 



though Florence she had not seen ; but the houses of 
Bath she found elegant, the streets beautiful, the pros- 
pects enchanting, and she alighted from her post-chaise 
at the York House. To her and Mrs. Thrale, as they 
were in the act of alighting, entered instantly Sir Philip 
Jenning Clerke " with his usual alacrity to oblige," and 




yfei 



High Street, Bath. 



told them of lodgings on the South Parade. Mrs. Thrale 
immediately hired a house at the left corner. " It was 
deliciously situated," Miss Burney tells us. " We have 
meadows, hills, Prior Park, the soft-flowing Avon, what- 
ever Nature has to offer, I think, always in our view." 
So ends pleasantly what seems to have been a pleasant 



7 6 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



journey down the Bath Road in 1780, and it is outside 
the scope of my scheme to describe the terminus, or to 
follow our travellers further through their three months' 
stay. They met however some characteristic figures, 
travellers like themselves on the Bath Road, some known 
to fame, others not. Amongst them a Mr. W., a young 







Mass House on Bridge, Brad ford-on- Avon. 



clergyman, who had a house on the Crescent. He was 
immensely tall, thin, and handsome, but affected, delicate, 
and sentimentally pathetic, and his conversation about 
his " own feelings," about amiable motives, and about 
the wind which, at the Crescent, he said in a tone of 
dying horror, " blew in a manner really frightful," made 



THE BATH ROAD 



77 



Miss Burney open her diary ; then there was Mrs. Byron, 
grandmother of the poet, who was very far from well, 
but whose charming spirits never failed her ; and Mrs. 
Siddons, playing in Belvidera, who did not move Miss 



"*•:'• 



ssrfR 

fZnksKn . 






?0 



•■ "<^ 



Courtyard of The Castle and Balls. 



Burney greatly ; and Mr. Lee, playing Pierre, who did ; 
and Mr. Anstey, author of the Bath Guide, who on 
the first occasion on which Miss Burney met him, had 
no opportunity of shining, and appeared, not unnaturally, 
" as like another man as could be imagined ; " and Mrs. 



78 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

Ord, constant to the Pump-room ; and Georgiana 
Duchess of Devonshire, of whose style of beauty " vanity 
was such a characteristic that it required it indispensably," 
and who put her face to the glass of her chair as 
she passed Miss Burney and remarked, ' How d'ye 
do?'" 

These travellers on the Bath Road came personally 
under the author of Evelina's piercing ken, and are 
accordingly types for ever. The Bath Miscellany of 
1740 enlarges the list with some unfamiliar names — to 
wit, a Miss Jeffery, junior, who danced well and had "a 
poem wrote her in the rooms ; " a nameless gentleman, 
likewise celebrated by the local bard, " who was observed 
never to go to church till Miss Potter came to Bath, 
when he went twice a day as constant as she ; " a parson 
also nameless, who played Pharoah (note the spelling), 
and who suffered for his imprudence by an impromptu 
delivered to him on a card ; and a hundred other figures 
— old, young, beautiful, decrepit, bent on health, pleasure, 
scandal, wine, or the waters, but travellers on the Bath 
Road, all of them, and any of whom, when the inevitable 
time for separation and departure had come, might have 
been seen standing in groups about the White Lion Inn 
in 1780, much as their ancestors stood about the Belle 
Sauvage a hundred and thirty years before, but with less 
surprise on their faces, eying some such announcements 
as these, and prepared for the worst : 

"MACHINE IN TWO DAYS. 

" From Bath for London, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays ; arrive 
at London from Bath, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. The ma- 
chines from the White Lion Inn at the Bell Savage, on Ludgate Hill ; 
those from the White Hart Inn, at the White Swan, Holborn Bridge, and 
the Three Cups in Bread Street ; and those from the Bear Inn at the Swan 
with Two Necks in Lad Lane. 

•' Passengers to pay One Pound five Shillings each, who are allowed to 
carry fourteen Pounds Weight— for all above to pay three halfpence per 
Pound." 

I do not think that I can close my review of the old 



THE BATH ROAD 79 

Bath Road, a review which pretends only to deal with 
its more salient features, with an excerpt more suggestive 
than this. What perils docs it not breathe of by flood 
and field — perils due to increased confidence and a 
reckless acceleration of pace. And acceleration of pace 
was not the only sign on the time-bill of increased 
recklessness. The lapse of a century had marked a 
departure in advertisement. The coach proprietors in 
Charles the Second's time did, it will be remembered, in 
assuring the public that their flying machines would 
reach Bath from London in three days, add a proviso 
which committed the safety of their passengers to 
Providence. The coach proprietors of George the 
Third's time however, in assuring the public that their 
machines would reach London from Bath in two days 
only, appear to have forgotten this formality. 




The George, and High Street, Salisbury. 



II.— THE EXETER ROAD. 



WHEN the elegant and accomplished Barry Lyndon, 
about the 17th of May, 1773, and shortly after his 
marriage with the widow of the late Right Honourable 
Sir Charles Lyndon, K.B., set out to visit his estates in 
the West of England, where he had never yet set foot, 
he and his Honoria and suite left London in three 
chariots, each with four horses ; an outrider in livery 
went before and bespoke lodgings from town to town : 
the party lay in state at Andover, Ilminster and Exeter ; 
and the fourth evening arrived in time for supper, " before 
that antique baronial mansion of which the gate was in 



THE EXETER ROAD 8l 

an odius Gothic taste that would have set Mr. Walpole 
wild with pleasure." 

Now this was good travelling in the days when full- 
bottomed wigs were in wear, and the roads of England 
in the state that I have described them. It was natural 
however that the fine gentleman whose pocket permitted 
him to fly " Flying Machines " as a slow form of lingering 
death, should have made better time with the aid of 
outriders, constant changes, and the finest cattle that 
could be procured, than the sad citizen whose wish 
was to pass from London to Exeter in the shortest 
time possible, and whose purse only permitted him 
to pass there behind six cart horses harnessed to a 
diving bell. 

For such I take it was very much the sort of appear- 
ance that the Exeter Fly presented in 1773, as it set out 
for its weekly flight from the Bull and Gate in Aldersgate, 
at five o'clock on some wintry morning, with the snow 
already falling thickly. Nor did the passengers seated 
in it, or rather clinging to its inside, aspire to Barry 
Lyndon's good fortune. They did not look forward to 
lying in state at Andover the first night, at Ilminster the 
second, at Exeter the third. Far other were their dreams. 
The young lady of the party (Belinda, Leanthe, Lucinda 
— what you will) drew her furs round her, and nestled 
closer to her mother, who took snuff at short intervals, 
and returned with interest the opposing captain's 
impudent gaze. The captain had been at Dettingen, 
as he somewhat raucously informed the company on 
entering the coach, a fact of which they appeared 
doubtful, though they agreed nem. con. that he had since 
been in liquor. Him (whenever, that is to say, he dared 
to look at the young lady of the party) the young man 
of the party — (Ranger, Mirabel — what you will) eyed 
furiously as if he would eat him, sword, Dettingen and 
all ; while the lawyer, who sat between these two men of 
mettle, tried his best to preserve peace, and wished him- 
self on the other side of the coach. All this party were 

G 



82 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

bound to Exeter ; but none of them, I say, hoped to 
reach it in three days. The lawyer indeed, who was a 
great traveller, having made the journey three times in 
his life, blew his frozen nose and publicly revelled in a 
more moderate ideal. " If," he said, "in spite of high- 
waymen, snowdrifts, ruts a yard deep, and Bagshot 
Heath, we compass the 172 miles in six days, we may 
think ourselves lucky, and may thank our stars, when we 
are safe at The Swan at Exeter, that we are not wander- 
ing among the bustards on Salisbury Plain." 

And so they rumbled and jolted along what is now 
Piccadilly, till they got to what is now Apsley House ; 
there the coachman alighted for a drink at the Hercules' 
Pillars — the Hatchett's of the period — which stood where 
Apsley House now stands. Readers of Tom Jones will 
remember this Hercules' Pillars well, will fancy that they 
have stayed in the place, as they can fancy that they 
have stayed in every inn which Fielding has described. 
Was it not here that Squire Western alighted on his 
arrival in London in pursuit of the fair Sophia ? 
Certainly it was ; and it was here that he cursed the 
chairmen, who, true progenitors of our cabmen of to-day, 

asked him for another shilling. " D me," in point of 

fact, the immortal old gentleman exclaimed, " D me, 

if I don't walk in the rain rather than get into one of 
their handbarrows again, They have jolted me more 
in a mile than Brown Bess would in a fox chase." The 
travellers in the Exeter Fly of 1773 did not regard The 
Hercules' Pillars from the Squire Western point of view, 
it is more than likely ; but they were thankful for its 
light in the gray winter's morning ; and as they saw the 
guard in the inn doorway somewhat ostentatiously getting 
his blunderbuss under control, recollected that they were 
near Knightsbridge, and experienced a qualm. 

Considering that Knightsbridge is only two furlongs 
from Hyde Park Corner — measured to what was once 
the cloth manufactory — this early perturbation of our 
ancestors may seem strange ; but the truth is, that a 



THE EXETER ROAD 83 

little more than a century ago those who, on nearing 
Knightsbridge, sported prayer books, felt for pistols, and 
generally put themselves into a posture of defence, did 
the right thing in the right place. The Arcadian tract 
indeed, which we now associate with guardsmen and 
nurserymaids, was known to travellers in the Exeter Fly 
as a place of bogs and highwaymen. For here the 
Great Western road crossed the stream — Where is the 
stream now ? — and the stream's bed was composed, 
" especially during the winter months," as the advertise- 
ment has it, of impassable mud. 

In the rebellion of 1554 Wyatt's men discovered this 
fact to their cost. After having marched all the way 
round by Kingston to cross the Thames, the stream at 
Knightsbridge proved a harder nut to crack, and utterly 
annihilated their reputation on entering town. Instead of 
being welcomed as Defenders of the Protestant Faith the 
crowd saluted them as "Draggletails," and how, after such 
a reception, could they look for anything but defeat? 

And, though this sort of thing may appear in keeping 
in the sixteenth century, Knightsbridge was no better 
place for travellers in 1736. "The road between this place 
and London," writes Lord Hervey, dating his letter from 
Kensington, " is grown so infamously bad that we live in 
the same solicitude as we should do if cast on a rock in 
the middle of the ocean ; and all the Londoners tell us 
there is between them and us a great impassable gulf of 
mud." 

Into this great impassable gulf of mud the Exeter Fly 
presently descended, and after desperate flounderings 
which only made matters worse, stuck fast. To it, when 
thus safely anchored, entered a gentleman in a vizor and 
riding a dark chestnut mare, who good-naturedly recom- 
mended the coachman to alight, and offered to relieve the 
passengers of their purses. The first to take advantage of 
this amiability and give up his purse was the warrior 
from Dettingen, who had been loud in his contempt for 
highwaymen ever since the Fly left the city, and had 

G 2 



84 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 




An Alarm by the Guard. 



sketched, with an elaborate garnishing of oaths, the 
horrid fate to which any marauder would be subject who 
ventured to bar the way. He spoke no more now of 



THE EXETER ROAD 85 

Dettingen, and of the standard he had taken from the 
musketeer of the French guard. Far from it. He gave 
his little all to the gentleman who asked for it, counselled 
submission to his companions, and disappeared to eat 
straw in the bottom of the coach. The highwayman 
now asked the ladies to oblige, parentheticall/ observing 
that time pressed. The words were hardly out of his 
mouth when Mirabel, who had been biding his time, 
obliged him with a sudden blow on that jaw which he 
had somewhat ostentatiously intruded upon the company, 
and at the same moment jumped from the coach and 
seized the bridle of the chestnut marc. The highway- 
man now said " Zounds ! " and discharged his pistol ; but 
as the chestnut mare reared and fell back with him just 
as he was firing it, the aim was not so true as the intention ; 
in point of fact, instead of shooting Mirabel through the 
head, he shot the guard through the hat, who announced 
in stentorian tones that he was a dead man, and let off his 
blunderbuss at the morning star. Meanwhile the high- 
wayman and Mirabel had closed and were wrestling in the 
mud, the ladies viewing the progress of the strife in a 
state of pleasing suppressed excitement, and the coach- 
man flogging his horses with a view of driving off and 
leaving Mirabel and his antagonist to decide their 
interesting difference in solitude and peace. This genial 
intention was frustrated by the mud which held the 
coach fast, and by the guard, who mounting one of the 
leaders succeeded in waking some watchmen, who, by 
way of performing their patrol between Kensington and 
Knightsbridge, were lying in graceful sleep at The Half- 
way Public House. They came upon the scene just as 
Mirabel was binding the highwayman's hands behind his 
back, the man having yielded himself for worse when he 
felt eleven stone and a half kneeling on his chest and 
saw that the chestnut mare had run away. The watch 
now with great intrepidity took charge of the bound 
prisoner, helped the Exeter Fly out of the ditch, and 
Mirabel into the coach, who joined his companions in a 



86 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

somewhat mud-stained, flushed, and exhausted state, but 
not inwardly unplcased at what he had done. 

Those of my readers who may be surprised at such 
an affair having taken place a little more than a century 
ago in the immediate neighbourhood of the present 
barracks of life-guards, may be glad to learn that such 
adventures were, at the time I speak of, of almost daily 
occurrence. In April, 1740, the Bristol Mail was robbed 
a little beyond this spot by a man on foot, who 
took the Bath and Bristol bags, and mounting the 
post-boy's horse, rode off towards London. On the 
1st of July, 1774, William Hawke was executed for 
highway robbery here, and two men were executed on 
the 30th of the ensuing November for a similar offence. 
In the same year, December 27th, Mr. Jackson, of the 
Court of Requests at Westminster, was attacked at 
Kensington Gore by four footpads, and even so late as 
1799 it was necessary to order a party of light horse 
to patrol every night from Hyde Park Corner to 
Kensington, all of which strange facts will be found 
chronicled in Mr. John Timbs's pleasant work on the 
Romance of London, who at the same time tells a good 
story of a footpad's capture at this very place. 

It seems that during the year 1752, the chaise to 
Devizes had been robbed two or three times, and at last 
the thing becoming no doubt monotonous, a gentleman 
of the name of Norton, not unknown to the authorities, 
was asked to try his hand at abating the nuisance. 
With this end in view he entered the post-chaise on 
the 3rd of June, and had got just as far as Knights- 
bridge on the way to Devizes, at half-past one o'clock 
in the morning, when a man came up on foot and said, 
" Driver, stop." The driver, who was a post-boy, did as 
he was bid in the twinkling of an eye ; and the man held 
a pistol tinder-box to the chaise and said, " Your money 
directly ; you must not stay — this minute your money." 
Mr. Norton now commenced business. He took a pistol 
from his coat pocket, and from his breeches pocket a five 



THE EXETER ROAD 



87 



shilling piece and a dollar, holding, it is unnecessary to 
say, the pistol concealed in one hand and the money in 
the other. He held the money pretty hard. This 
puzzled the footpad, who said, " Put it in my hat," a very 
gentlemanly request surely. Mr. Norton however pre- 
ferred to let him take the five-shilling piece out of his 
hand ; but directly he had done so, was rude enough to 




The Three Swans, Salisbury. 



snap a pistol in his face. The highwayman naturally 
incensed at this surprise, staggered back, held up his 
hands and remarked, " Lord ! Lord ! " He then incon- 
tinently ran away, hotly pursued by the indefatigable 
Norton, who took him about 600 yards off. But how did 
he take him ? It pains me to say that he hit him a blow 
in the back. To take his neckcloth offafter this, and tie his 



88 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



hands withit, was a mere matter of adding insult to injury, 
but Norton did not disdain the deed. He then took his 
captive back to the chaise and told the gentlemen " that 
was the errand he had come upon" (which was surely an 







The Catherine Wheel, Salisbury. 



unnecessary confidence), and then he wished them a good 
journey, and brought his captive back to London. 

The customary preliminaries at the trial which ensued 
having been adjusted, the prisoner was asked whether he 



THE EXETER ROAD 89 

had anything to urge against his being taken to Tyburn 
in an open cart. Said he, pointing to the indefatigable 
Norton, " Ask him how he lives ! " To which question, 
meant to be insulting, the indefatigable Norton replied 
in these meaning words — " I live in Wych Street, and 
sometimes I take a thief." 

But where is the Exeter Fly vid Salisbury all this time ? 
Why, the coachman has recovered his reins and his senses, 
and the Fly has resumed its flight, and while its passengers 
are busily discussing footpads from a personal experience, 
it passes, about a furlong further down the road, a noted 
house of entertainment at which footpads used to 
congregate. This was the celebrated Half-way House, 
an inn midway between Knightsbridge and Kensington, 
which stood on the present site of the Prince of Wales' 
Gate, Hyde Park, and which was pulled down in the 
autumn of 1846. Every highwayman of the period had 
drunk within its doors, a recollection of which fact did not 
incline the driver of the Exeter Fly to try the quality of 
its beer. Meanwhile all the way through Kensington 
(just outside which charming village the Fly passes two 
blue nosed sportsmen, out snipe shooting) the passengers 
with much excitement and heat review the recent adven- 
ture. A scene from Smollett slips in so well here that I 
cannot refrain, a scene which I grieve to have to tone 
for ears polite. 

"When," writes Roderick Random (after a similar 
adventure), " when I had taken my seat, Miss Snapper, 
who from the coach had seen everything that had 
happened, made me a compliment on my behaviour ; 
and said she was glad to sec me returned without having 
received any injury ; her mother, too, owned herself 
obliged to my resolution ; and the lawyer told me I was 
entitled by Act of Parliament to a reward of forty 
pounds for having apprehended a highwayman. The 
soldier observed with a countenance in which impudence 
and shame struggling produced some disorder, that if I 
had not been in such a hurry to get out of the 



9Q COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

coach, he would have secured the rogue effectually 
without all this bustle and loss of time, by a scheme 
which my heat and precipitation ruined. ' For my own 
part,' continued he, ' I am always extremely cool on 
these occasions.' 

" ' So it appeared by your trembling,' said the young 
lady. 

" ' Death and the deuce ! ' cried he. ' Your sex protects 
you, madam ; if any man on earth durst tell me so much 
I'd send him to in an instant' 

" So saying he fixed his eyes upon me, and asked if I 
had seen him tremble. I answered without hesitation 
« Yes.' 

" ' D — e sir/ said he, ' d'ye doubt my courage ? ' I 
replied, ' Very much.' This declaration quite discon- 
certed him ; he looked blank, and pronounced with a 
faltering voice, ' Oh, 'tis very well ! I shall find a time.' 

" I signified my contempt of him by thrusting my 
tongue into my cheek, which humbled him so much that 
he scarce swore another oath aloud during the whole 
journey" — or perhaps till he got as far as Brentford, 
let us say, where our travellers in the Exeter Fly break- 
fasted at The Pigeons. 

Brentford is seven miles from Hyde Park Corner, and 
is a noted town in the opinion of some experts, 
though others, I observe, prefer to describe it as a filthy 
place. The Pigeons was, at any rate in the old coaching 
days, a noted inn for post-horses, two of whom, tired of 
life and the vile paving stones which adorned the streets, 
tried early in the century to drown themselves in the 
Grand Canal, in the decorous company of a clergyman 
from Buckinghamshire, who was seated in the chaise 
with twelve volumes of Tillotson's sermons, two maiden 
daughters, and their aunt. On being recovered from the 
waters, the Buckinghamshire clergyman sought his 
sermons, or rather Tillotson's, wildly, and when he found 
they had gone to improve the fishes, he lifted up his 
voice and said the strangest things. He told one of his 



THE EXETER ROAD 91 

daughters that he could better have spared her aunt, 
and spoke in monosyllables to the post-boy who was 
duly discovered to be drunk. 

This, however, has nothing to do with the Exeter Fly, 
which is standing before The Pigeons, refreshed as to 
men and horses, and ready to start. The snow is still 
falling, the coachman's nose beams a benignant purple, 
and the ostler recommends another glass as an antidote 
to the weather, of which he presages the worst. Re- 
covered by the aid of Nantes brandy from his previous 
dejection, the captain hears these words of ill omen as he 
issues from the inn, and meditates falling back on the 
bar for further support. The guard however tells him 
that it is time to get forward, and the man of war 
somewhat sadly joins his company and the coach. The 
talk now among the passengers is of Hounslow Heath ; 
and the ladies fearing as to what may happen there, in 
the way of highwaymen, the captain, full of a temporary 
valour, lets fall something about the cold which will 
make a little martial exercise enjoyable. He is instantly 
however reduced to abject silence by a glance from the 
hero of the recent episode, who at the same time 
eloquently squeezes the younger lady's hand. A deli- 
cious glance is exchanged. At the same time the coach 
begins to jolt unspeakably, and enters the town of 
Hounslow. Here they are advised by the landlord of 
The George not to go forward, as the Bath Flying 
Machine up to town has been snowed up beyond Coin- 
brook, and six beds at The George are aired and empty. 
As sole answer to this appeal, the coachman full of 
valour, calls for more brandy, and two more horses, to 
take them comfortably over the heath, and the captain 
adjourns for a little something in the bar which may 
serve the same purpose. Inspired by a like exercise, 
the coachman now imagines himself to be Jehu, the son 
of Nimshi, and the Fly leaves Hounslow behind it at 
six round miles an hour. The first thing to be seen on 
the notorious heath is the Salisbury Fly in a terrific 



92 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



snow drift, or rather the coachman's hat, two horses' 
heads, the roof of the coach, and two passengers standing 




In a Snaw-Drift. 



on their luggage bawling " Help." The driver of the 
Exeter Fly observes this catastrophe, but he does not 



THE EXETER ROAD 93 

regard it, or regards it purely as a landmark, and majesti- 
cally avoids the pit into which his less fortunate brother 
has fallen. Surely in vain is the snare laid in sight of 
any coachman. But to see at all has become difficult 
by this time. The snow drives ; the wind blows it full 
in their faces ; the horses begin to show signs of 
suddenly capitulating. The coachman now has recourse 
to all the dark arts of persuasion and the whip ; " fan- 
ning " them, which in the tongue of coachmen is 
whipping them, "towelling them," which is flogging, 
" chopping them," which is hitting the horse with the 
whip on the thigh (a barbarous .practice very common 
among the coachmen of the Iccni, who however pre- 
ferred a spear head for the purpose), in vain ! — absolutely 
in vain ! The six horses fell into a walk, and can only 
be kept to that by incredible exertions and oaths. The 
passengers now give themselves for gone, in the expres- 
sive language of the day ; but presently when things 
are at the worst, their clouds break a bit, and the snow 
ceases driving. The coachman does the opposite with 
redoubled vigour, and presently draws up before The 
Bush, at Staines. The Exeter Fly has taken nearly 
three hours to come the seven miles from Hounslow. 
The landlord of The Bush, Staines, hearing this, follows 
the lead of the landlord of The George, and counsels 
rest and dinner ; and the passengers, who to speak 
truly, have never before in their lives come so near to the 
experience of riding in the air in a hollowed-out iceberg, 
incline their ears to the advice. Success, stimulant, and 
the lull in the snow storm have, however, made the 
coachman daring. He observes thickly that he is an 
Englishman, and declares his intention of inning at 
Bagshot for the night, whether the passengers leave 
the coach or stick to it. Upon this the young captor of 
the highwayman says, blushing with ingenuous shame, 
that he is willing to go on ; upon which the young 
lady, blushing also, says that she is willing too. 
This necessitates the mother also putting her neck in 



94 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



jeopardy, and she, too, re-enters the coach. The lawyer, 
seeing himself in danger of being divided from the 
proprietress of a snug estate in Devonshire, free from 
encumbrances, and perhaps divided from her for ever, 
takes his heart out of his boots, recites a by-law to the 
coachman on the subject of catastrophes, and drivers 
committed for manslaughter, and sits by the widow's 
side ; the captain, for his very uniform's sake, feels 
bound to follow the lawyer's suit ; and amidst faint 




St. Anne's Gate, Salisbury. 



hurrahs from half-frozen potboys, the Exeter Fly starts 
gallantly on its last flight. At Egham, one mile three 
furlongs on, it begins to snow again, and as the coachman 
pulls up at the Catherine Wheel, the lawyer desires the 
captain not to stare at the widow ; the captain threatens 
to send the lawyer to a place where legal documents are 
not of the faintest use ; the lawyer threatens the captain 
meanwhile, if he moves a finger, with an immediate 
action for assault. Upon this the captain, not being a 
man of immediate action, subsides, and the Exeter Fly 



THE EXETER ROAD 95 

enters upon the most perilous part of its journey. Now 
the snow falls as it should at Christmas time, when men 
are seated round blazing fires in snug inn parlours, and 
not braving the blasts in antediluvian flying machines. 
The coachman foreseeing the worst, and that every 
moment the snowfall is heavier, tries to churn his horses 
into a canter as the gloom of a winter's afternoon begins 
to fall upon Bagshot Heath. The guard now fingers his 
blunderbuss delicately, and sees a highwayman behind 
every bush ; but highwaymen are not such fools as to 
be out in such weather, and the driver, who can see 
nothing at all, drives into a rut a yard deep. 

"Now shriek'd the timid and stood still the brave — " 

among whom the captain may not be numbered. He 
bellows indeed like a bull, and jumping out of the coach 
seeks refuge in a snowdrift, leaving his head exposed 
above it, to show how the land lies. The coachman sees, 
and double thongs his wheelers, who drag the coach out 
of the rut to the side of the captain, and upset it in a 
gravel pit. The captor of the highwayman now tells 
Belinda not to be alarmed, and seats her with her mother 
by her side on the side of the overturned Fly, from which 
point of vantage they scream in concert, and look upon 
as dismal a scene as two upset women ever saw. A 
moan is heard from the lawyer, bound on most important 
law business to Salisbury, but now studying the laws of 
nature, &c. &c, after the manner of the inhabitants of 
the island of Formosa, with his feet out of the window 
and his head under the scat ; the coachman and guard 
are enjoying the experience of the Laplanders, who 
never think so deeply as when they are lying on their 
back in the snow ; and the captain all the while is being 
rapidly converted into New Zealand mutton. 

Having collected his scattered companions one by 
one, and propped them in various attitudes of frozen 
dejection against the side of the overturned coach, the 



96 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



young gallant of the party proposes that some one shall 
go on to The King's Arms at Bagshot and procure help 
— with which end in view he cuts the traces and leads 
up one of the wheelers for a charger. The only answer 
to his appeal comes from the guard, who raises his 
blunderbuss gravely and mistaking a too curious 
shepherd who approaches from behind a bush for a foot- 
pad, shoots him, before he has time for effectual flight, 




Courtyard, King's Arms, Salisbury. 



in the hinder parts. The shepherd has now to be dealt 
with. He is given brandy and placed on his chest 
beside the coachman who, still believing himself to be 
on the box, mechanically dfives air-drawn horses. 
Despairing of the others, the young man now commits 
Belinda and her mother to the care of the lawyer, 
who has lost all feeling in hands, feet, and arms, but 
declares he will look after the mother, mounts the 



THE EXETER ROAD 97 

patient wheeler and rides off for help to Bagshot. In 
under an hour the landlord of The King's Arms is seen 
approaching, with anticipation of a week's good company 
beaming in his eye, and surrounded by a goodly array 
of stable boys bearing torches, and ostlers armed with 
staves. There is also brandy for the frost-bitten, and a 
post-chaise for the wounded. The timely succour is 
greeted by the castaways with a faint cheer. Truth to 
say it has not come before it was wanted, or before the 
guard, still on highwaymen intent, has fired off his empty 
blunderbuss at the party of rescue. All the way to The 
King's Arms he babbles of the hundred pounds due to him 
for ridding the heath of a footpad ; the shepherd consults 
the lawyer meanwhile as to damages and as to how an 
action would lie ; the captain swears that his recent 
experience was nothing to what he has known in the 
Low Countries ; Mirabel presses Belinda's hand, and the 
pressure is ever so faintly returned ; the snow falls and 
falls as if it never intended to stop, and the party arrive 
finally at The King's Arms, Bagshot, where a wonderful 
display of good cheer oppresses a groaning table — 
" Iris-tinted rounds of beef, marble-veined ribs, gelatinous 
veal pies, colossal hams, gallons of old ale, bins full of 
old port and burgundy." 

And here, in the midst of old English plenty, my 
travellers are snowed up for nearly a week. And 
Mirabel proposes to Belinda, and is accepted ; and the 
man of law drinks a congratulatory bottle of port with 
the fortunate wooer ; and proposes himself to the widow 
next day, and is refused ; and Mirabel drinks a bottle 
of port with him — a consolatory one this time ; and 
the guard is forgiven by the shepherd ; and the captain 
is rude to Betty the chambermaid, and gets his face 
slapped for his pains in a long oak corridor ; and so in 
the old coaching days, when Exeter was five days' 
journey from London, and ladies wore hoops and 
farthingales, and gentlemen bag wigs and three-cornered 
hats, the old coaching world went round. 

H 



98 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

It went round at a very different pace though in 
another fifty years, when the dashing young Mirabel 
of 1 77 1 was a septuagenarian with the gout and grand- 
children, and the guard of the crazy old Exeter Fly was 
practising on a ghostly horn by the banks of the Styx, 
and the coachman cracking empty jokes with pale, un- 
substantial highwaymen destined never to cry " Stand 
and deliver" any more. Let us skip fifty years, I say, 
and imagine our Mirabel an old man of seventy, a 
stranger to reforms in coaching, and in 1823 making 
the same journey to Exeter again ! The great and 
ingenious Nimrod has described such a scene with such 
extreme facetiousness and point, that I may well take 
a leaf from his book, The Chase, The Turf, and tJie 
Road (Murray, 1852), with many acknowledgments and 
thanks. 

Full of scepticism, then, but guided by a friend, our 
Mirabel of the Exeter Fly takes his stand outside The 
Gloucester Coffee-house, now the St. James's Hotel, on 
a winter's morning near Christmas 1823. His life since 
he married Belinda has been passed out of England in 
the great new world beyond the sea, and he has come 
back to see his grandchildren and the old home in the 
west country before the allotted time arrives for him 
to leave off travelling for ever. Behold him then with 
much of 1773 about him in dress, deportment, and 
speech, set down suddenly in Piccadilly. The street is 
crowded. Bucks about to travel are hurrying into The 
White Horse Cellar for a last rum and milk, or lolling 
outside the doors attired somewhat after the manner of 
our more modern masher, but having broader shoulders, 
curlier hats, longer hair dressed a la George the Fourth, 
parted behind, and distilling the subtle odours of 
Macassar the Incomparable to the morning air. They 
stare at the old-fashioned cut of the once fashionable 
Mirabel's clothes with fatuous incredulity, over cravats 
a la Brummell half-a-yard high. The newest things in 
the way of exclamations are abroad ; " zounds " have 



THE EXETER ROAD 



99 



had their day. The talk is of the six bottles drunk 
overnight, of the recent battle on Crawley Down, and 
Lord Byron's expedition to Missolonghi. Mirabel 
listens with ears intent, and is at the instant accosted 
by a ruffianly-looking fellow, made after the manner of 
the desperadoes who pursue our cabs for miles when 
we return with our families from the sea-side, and insist 
upon tendering assistance with the luggage. Their pro- 




The Meet at an Inn. 



genitor of 1823 snatches Mirabel's portmanteau out of 
his trembling hands, breathes upon him brandy, and 
says, " What coach, your honour ? " betraying, I fear, 
a Celtic origin. 

11 1 wish to go home to Exeter," says Mirabel mildly. 
Upon which the desperado tells him he is just in time, 
and that in point of fact, " Here she comes ! Them 
gray horses ! 

II 2 



ioo COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

Pleased at having timed the thing so well, Mirabel 
looks in the direction thus grammatically indicated. 
He expects to see the Exeter Fly — a trifle improved 
upon possibly — but still the Exeter Fly. And what 
does he see in its stead rapidly approaching ? Why, 
a turn-out drawn by four spanking grays, which he 
takes to be a gentleman's carriage, and which would 
do credit to a crowned head. He communicates this 
impression to the desperado, who remarks " Bah ! " 
or " Yah ! " (a more common use). " It's the Comet, 
and you must be as quick as lightning ! " with which 
words he projects his victim into the coach, the victim's 
l u gg a g e i nto the boot, pockets his fee without a thanks- 
giving, and remorselessly attaches himself to another 
innocent. 

Before he got into the coach Mirabel has stared at 
the coachman, and as soon as he is seated, asks what 
gentleman is going to drive. " He is no gentleman, 
sir," says a person who sits opposite to him, and who 
happens to be the proprietor of the coach; "he is no 
gentleman ! He has been on the Comet ever since she 
was started, and is a very steady young man." " Pardon 
my ignorance," Mirabel replies. " From the cleanliness 
of his person, the neatness of his apparel, and the 
language he made use of, I mistook him for some en- 
thusiastic Bachelor of Arts, wishing to become a 
charioteer, after the manner of the illustrious ancients." 
At which piece of simplicity the coach proprietor 
suspects Mirabel of delirium tremens, but says, " You 
must have been in foreign parts," and at the instant 
the wheels begin to go round. In five minutes they 
are at Hyde Park Corner ; but where is The Hercules 
Pillars ? Never to be seen by Mirabel again, who 
remarks somewhat pointlessly, " What, off* the stones, 
already ? " He is informed that they have never been 
on the stones, and that there are no stones in London 
now. [This seems strange to me — I seem to have met 
some in my wanderings in hansom cabs ! ] . Wrong 



THE EXETER ROAD 



IO! 



however as regards stones and coachmen, the next 
thing Mirabel remarks is that they seem to be going 
very fast ; but here also he is hopelessly out of his 




Giving them a Start. 



bearings. " Fast ! " says the proprietor. " We never 
go fast over this stage. We have time allowed in con- 
sequence of being subject to interruptions, and we 
make it up over the low ground. Notwithstanding 



102 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

which apology for lack of speed, in five and thirty 
minutes, the Comet careers into Brentford. 

At the jolting of the coach on the old familiar paving 
stones Mirabel becomes young again. The past re- 
appears. He is in the Exeter Fly once more, with the 
blooming Belinda — whose bright eyes are dimmed now ; 
with her mother, who has long since vanished off the 
face of the earth ; with the lawyer of Salisbury who, 
whilst she was upon it, had aspired to keep her com- 
pany ; with the blue-faced warrior from Dettingen, 
intoxicated and timorous to the last. 

" Wounds bleed anew ; the Plaint pursues with tears 
The wanderer through life's labyrinthine waste ; 
And names the Good already past away, 
Cheated, alas ! of half life's little day," 

as Goethe sings of a similar condition of affairs. To 
be brief, the old man feels sad, and looks it ; but when 
his companions ask him what the matter is, and whether 
they may prescribe, he observes, " Hah ! . . What ! . . . 
No improvement in this filthy place ? Is Old Brentford 
still here ? A national disgrace." In answer to which 
somewhat splenetic attack on a perfectly respectable 
town, he is informed that Old Brentford is here ; and a 
second after it could only have been described as tJiere, 
for the Comet leaves it at ten round miles an hour, and 
fifty-five minutes precisely from leaving Hyde Park 
Corner draws up at Hounslow. 

Mirabel is delighted, for he wants some breakfast. 
" Thank Heaven," he says, " we are arrived at a good- 
looking house," with which words he stands up for the 
purpose of alighting at it ; but he is violently and with 
horrid suddenness reseated, and the waiter, the inn, and 
indeed Hounslow itself, disappear in the twinkling of 
an eye. By and by, when he has recovered from the 
painful shock of nearly swallowing his teeth, he eyes the 
proprietor sternly, and says, " Sir, you told me we were 
to change horses at Hounslow," searching meanwhile for 



THE EXETER ROAD 



103 



the address of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to 
Animals — or its equivalent in those days. The pro- 
prietor, smiling superior, blandly tells him that they have 
changed horses while he was putting on his spectacles. 
" Only one minute allowed for it at Hounslow, sir, and 
it is often done in fifty seconds by those nimble-fingered 
horse-keepers." The coach at this moment begins to 




Crane Bridge, Salisbury. 



rock violently, bounding about the road like a pea on 
a drum, and showing other outward signs of being 
attached to runaway horses, which phenomena, having 
been remarked upon by Mirabel (who clings to his seat 
as tenaciously as ever he did fifty years before to the 
seat of the Exeter Fly), are thus explained by the 
omniscient proprietor, in words full of darkness and 
doubt. 



104 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



" Oh, sir, we always ' spring them ' over these six 
miles. It is what we call the ' hospital ground ' ; " 
which fateful phrase being interpreted turns out to mean 
that it is ground particularly adapted to horses suffering 
from the varying peculiarities of (i) having backs which 
are getting down instead of up in their work ; (2) of not 
being able to hold an ounce down hill, or draw an ounce 
up ; (3) of kicking over the pole one day, and over the 




Puttingto the Team. 



bars the next ; all of which gifts qualify them to work 
these six miles, because here they have nothing to do 
but to gallop. This they proceed to do in the fullest 
acceptation of the term. Some expletives in vogue when 
George the Third was king are now heard inside the 
coach, and seem to come from the old gentleman's 
corner. He looks out and sees death and destruction 
before his eyes, the horses going at the rate of a mile in 



THE EXETER ROAD 105 

three minutes, and the coachman in the act of taking a 
pinch of snuff. The last of these three sights tends to 
reassure him, and he remarks to the coach proprietor 
that fortunately for their necks the road seems excellent. 
" They are perfection, sir," says the proprietor. " No horse 
walks a yard in this coach between London and Exeter, 
all trotting ground now." " But who has effected this 
improvement in your paving ? " says Mirabel. " A party 
of the name of M'Adam," is the reply, " but coachmen 
call him the Colossus of roads. Great things likewise 
have been done in cutting through hills and altering the 
course of roads ; and it is no uncommon thing nowadays 
to see four horses trotting away merrily down-hill on 
that very ground where they were formerly seen walking 
up-hill." 

When the Comet arrives at Staines, Mirabel, reassured 
by this soothing syrup, alights to sec the horses changed. 
On seeing a fine thoroughbred led towards the coach, 
with a twitch on his nose, he experiences a slight feeling 
of nausea ; but recollects his inside friend's assurance 
that the next stage requires cattle strong and staid, and 
takes his seat again just as the artist on the box says, 
" Let 'em go, and take care of yourselves." All goes 
well for a while till they reach what is termed on the 
road a long fall of ground, when the coach presses upon 
the horses. The thoroughbred at once breaks into a 
canter, and by doing so disqualifies himself from being 
of any service as a wheeler, and this done there is nothing 
for it but to gallop. The coach rocks awfully, neverthe- 
less she is not in danger ; the master-hand of the artist 
keeps her in a direct line, and meeting the opposing 
ground, she steadies and is all right. 

Not so old Mirabel, who feels extremely sick and 
shaken, and leaves the Comet at Bagshot for good and 
all, congratulating himself on the safety of his limbs. 
He once more after a lapse of fifty years enters The 
King's Arms, recalls the journey to Salisbury in 1773, 
finds the place much changed, rings the bell for the 



io6 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 




•Ate*. 

■ r.y- 



96* 



Courtyard of Church House, Salisbury. 



THE EXETER ROAD 107 

waiter, and mistakes the well-dressed person who answers 
it for the landlord. " Pray, sir," said he, " have you any 
slow coach down the road to-day ? " 

"Why yes, sir," replies John; "we shall have the 
Regulator down in an hour." 

Upon which Mirabel remarks that the Regulator will 
do, as it will enable him to breakfast, which he has not 
done that day. Upon which John breaks into lamenta- 
tions, which must often have been heard in those days 
when fast coaches had come into fashion and were kill- 
ing old inns. 

" These here fast drags," he cries, " be the ruin of us. 
'Tis all hurry, scurry, and no gentleman has time to 
have nothing on the road." Here he breaks off. " What 
will you take, sir ? Mutton chops, veal cutlets, beef- 
steaks, or a fowl ? " (to kill.) 

Having duly breakfasted off tough beef-steak and 
memories of the past, old Mirabel sees the Regulator 
draw up at the door. He sees also that it is a strong, 
well-built drag, painted chocolate, bedaubed all over with 
gilt letters, a bull's head on the doors, a Saracen's head 
on the hind boot, and drawn by four strapping horses. 
Amongst other sights which inspire him with confidence 
the coachman must be numbered, who has neither the 
neatness nor the agility of the artist of the Comet, but 
is nearly double his size. Mirabel now asks what room 
there is in the coach. " Full inside, sir, and in front," 
is the answer, " but you can have the gammon board all 
to yourself." " Ah ! " says Mirabel, " something new again, 
I suppose ; " and mounts up the ladder to inspect it. He 
finds himself on a seat which enables him to sit back or 
front to the horses as he may like best, thinks himself 
lucky, and at the same moment the Regulator leaves the 
village of Bagshot at a steady pace, to the tunc of " Scots 
wha hae wi' Wallace bled," and continues at that steady 
pace for the first five miles. Mirabel now congratulates 
himself ; but his song of gladness is soon, unlucky man, to 
be turned into a dirge. For the Regulator, though a slow 



io8 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



coach, is timed at eight miles an hour through a great 
extent of country, and has therefore — to borrow an illus- 
tration from poetry — to make play when she can. This 
occurs after she has left The Golden Farmer and The 
White Hart at Blackwater behind her, and entered upon 
a very dreary and dismal tract of country known as 
Hartford Bridge Flats. To the lover of scenery this 
place affords few attractions, but it is as a sweet-smelling 
savour in the nostrils of old coachmen, being known 







Bt > cfc*©fei' 



The White Hart at Blackviatcr. 



indeed as the best five miles for a coach in all England. 
The ground being firm, the surface undulating, and 
the Regulator being timed twenty-three minutes over 
the five miles, the coachman proceeds to "spring his 
cattle." The coach being heavily laden forward, rolls 
in a manner which it is quite impossible to find a simile 
for, and Mirabel utterly gives himself up for gone. In 
the midst of one of its best gallops the Regulator meets 



THE EXETER ROAD 



109 



the coachman of the Comet driving his up coach. He 
has a full view of his quondam passenger, and thus 
described his situation : 




The Lion at BlackwaUr. 



\-'l-\^ At WhiUhunk. 1 



" He was seated with his back to the horses, his arms 
extended to each extremity of the guard irons, his 
teeth set grim as death, his eyes cast down towards the 



no COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

ground, thinking the less he saw of his danger the 
better ; " and in this state he arrived at Hartford Bridge. 
Here he dismounted from the Regulator with the 




The Poultry Cross, Salisbury. 



alacrity of lightning. " I will walk into Devonshire," 
he cries. Then he thinks better of this, and says he 
will post ; then he is told that posting will cost him 



THE EXETER ROAD ill 

twenty pounds ; then he says this will never do, and 
asks whether the landlord of The White Lion can 
suggest no coach to his notice that does not carry 
luggage on the top. 

Here he lays himself open to the unkindest cut of all, 
which the landlord hastens to avail himself of with all 
the unbending remorselessncss of his kind. 

" Oh yes," he says, " we shall have one here to-night 
that is not allowed to carry a band-box on the roof; 
the Quicksilver mail, sir, one of the best out of London. 
Jack White and Tom Brown — picked coachmen over 
this ground ; Jack White down to-night." 

" Guarded and lighted ?" 

" Both, sir ; blunderbuss and pistols in the sword- 
case, a lamp each side of the coach and one under the 
footboard — see to pick up a pin the darkest night of 
the year." 

" Very fast ? " 

" Oh no, Sir ! JUST KEEPS TIME, AND THAT'S ALL ! " 

" That's the coach for me ! " says the credulous 
Mirabel ; " and I'm sure I shall feel at my ease in it. I 
suppose it is what used to be called the Old Mercury ? " 

Alas ! not at all. The Devonport, commonly called 
the Quicksilver, mail, is half an hour faster than most 
in England, and is indeed the miracle of the road. She 
has no luggage on the top, it is true, but she is a mile 
in the hour quicker than the Comet ; at least three 
miles in the hour quicker than the Regulator ; and she 
performs more than half her journey by lamplight. 
Imagine Mirabel's condition when he discovers into 
what sort of coach he has been beguiled ! Past Hartley 
Row he flies, past Hook, where in The White Hart 
there was and is a splendid old inn ; but it is the dead 
of night now, and the inn is shut up if the Quicksilver 
stopped at it, which it didn't. The climax comes when 
old Mirabel awakens from the sleep of exhaustion on a 
stage which is called the fastest of the journey — it is 
four miles of ground, and twelve minutes is the time. 



112 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

Mirabel now loses his head, and in spite of the assur- 
ances of the passengers that all is right, thrusts it out 
of the window to see where the deuce they are going to, 
sees nothing but dust and whirling wheels, and loses 
his wig. The unfeeling passengers remark, " I told you 
so," according to invariable recipe. Mirabel cries, 
" Stop, coachman ! " The coachman hears him not. 
In another second the broad wheels of a road waggon 
have done the accursed thing ; and a short time after 




1 %&f--' 



The White Hart at Hook. 



the Quicksilver mail thunders through Basingstoke, 
which is forty-five miles one furlong from Hyde Park 
Corner, and as uninteresting a town as can be seen in a 
day's march. 

And at Basingstoke I shall leave Mirabel and the 
Exeter mail, and go down the rest of the road in slower 
and more historic company. 

Amongst the most distinguished of these must be 
mentioned Cromwell, who was extremely busy on this 



THE EXETER ROAD 



"3 



part of the Exeter road, in 1645, taking Basing House 
(which had defied the Parliamentarians for four years), 
stripping lead off the roof of the Abbey for casting 
bullets for the purposes of the siege, and generally 
impressing his iron personality on everything about. 
Little remains, thanks to him and time, I regret to say, 
of Basing House, except a ruined gateway and the 
indelible memories of its gallant defence for the king ; 




Sfe# 



Courtyard, Whit* Hart, Hook. 



but a great deal remains of the town of Basingstoke, 
which is a modern growth from old Basing, and which, 
though I understand it had once a large share of the 
silk and woollen trade, is chiefly remarkable, from my 
point of view, as being the place where many of the 
West of England coaches stopped for their passengers 
to dine. 

The road between here and Andover, about eighteen 



iH COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

miles, runs through a desolate country, which already 
begins to anticipate in its lonely monotony some of the 
more engaging peculiarities of Salisbury Plain. Through 
this tract (it being give-and-take sort of land) the fast 
coaches made fast time ; past Worting, once famous for 
its White Hart ; past Overton, six miles and a half 
further on, famous for its trout stream and foxhounds — 
the celebrated Vyne ; and so on to Whitchurch, which 
is fifty-six miles six furlongs from Hyde Park Corner, 
and is not the bustling place now that it was when the 
coaches from London to Salisbury, and from Oxford to 
Winchester, crossed each other here, as they used to. 
It may be perhaps unnecessary for me to say that the 
inn at Whitchurch is The White Hart, but what adds 
interest to the fact is that it was here, while waiting for 
the down mail to Falmouth, that Newman began the 
Lyra Apostolica, with the lines, " Are these the tracks of 
some unearthly friend ? " 

Seven miles further and we are in Andover, which 
though a small place, has a railway junction and a 
history. Here Henry VII. rested from his labours after 
suppressing the insurrection of Perkin Warbeck ; but 
whether the miserly Tudor put up at the Star and 
Garter, or the everlasting White Hart, or their mediaeval 
equivalents, if there were any, is more than I can say. 
It was upon Andover, to link another royalty with the 
place, that James II. fell back, after the breaking-up of 
the camp at Salisbury. Here it was that he was deserted 
by Prince George, remarkable for his impenetrable 
stupidity and his universal panacea for all contingencies 
in a catch-word. Whatever happened, " Est-il possible ? " 
was his exclaim. He supped with the king, who was 
at the moment overwhelmed naturally enough with his 
misfortunes, said nothing during a dull meal, but directly 
it was over slipped out to the stable in the company of 
the Duke of Ormond, mounted, and rode off. James 
did not exhibit much surprise on learning the adventure, 
being used to desertion by this time. He merely 



THE EXETER ROAD 



"5 



remarked, " What, is ' Est-il possible ? ' gone too ! A 
good trooper would have been a greater loss ;" and left 
for London — I was going to say by the next coach. At 
the Lion Inn, readers of Thackeray will remember, the 
ingenious Barry Lyndon lay on the first night of his 
journey to Hackton Castle, county Devon ; here he 
called up the landlord to crack a bottle with him in the 
evening ; here Lady Lyndon took umbrage at the 




The White Hart, Whitchurch. 



Corridor i* While Hart. 



proceeding ; and here the great Barry " who hated 
pride," " overcame," as he delicately puts it, this vice 
in his haughty spouse. 

To become geographical for a moment, it is at 
Andover, or to be quite accurate, half a mile out of the 
town, that the two great coaching roads to the West of 
England diverge— one going by Little Ann, Little 
Wallop, Lobton Corner, and Winterslow Hut (celebrated 

I 2 



n6 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



as the residence of Hazlitt, and as the scene, on the 
evening of October 20, 18 16, of an attack by an escaped 
lioness on the Exeter Mail) to Salisbury ; the other 
route being by Wcyhill, Mullens Pond, Park House, 
Amesbury, and thence to Exeter by Mere, Wincanton, 
and Ilminster. Of this road, which was the one taken 
by the Telegraph, more anon. The Quicksilver, the 
other crack coach on the Great Western road, which 




Barry Lyndon Cracks a Bottle. 



was timed eighteen hours for the 175 miles, changed 
horses at Salisbury, which is one of the most 
picturesque towns in the south of England, and will make 
a convenient halting-place for me, it being situate 
almost exactly halfway between Exeter and London. 

The town of Salisbury, which is eighty miles seven 
furlongs from Hyde Park Corner, is chiefly remarkable 
for its cathedral ; and it owes this agreeable notoriety to 
the north wind. This may sound strange in the ears 
of those who have not, attired as shepherds, highwaymen 



THE EXETER ROAD 



117 



or huntsmen, braved the elements in the surrounding 
plain. Those however who have enjoyed this fortune, 
will not be surprised to learn, that when the winds 




4 *i* 



0> 
A Christmas I'isilor. 



raged in the good old days of 1220 round the original 
church of Old Sarum, which was quite unprotected and 
perched upon a hill, the congregation were utterly unable 



u8 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

to hear the priests say mass ; and no doubt they were un- 
able to hear the sermon too. This fact much exercised the 
good Bishop Poore ; and so, a less windy site having oppor- 
tunely been revealed to him in a dream by the Virgin — 
he got a licence from Pope Honorius for removal. 
Which done — with a mediaeval disregard for the safety 
of the local cowherd or government inspector — he 
aimlessly shot an arrow into the air from the ramparts 
of Old Sarum, and (unlike Mr. Longfellow's hero), 
having marked where it fell, there laid the foundations 
of the existing beautiful church. 

To pass from ecclesiastical matters, with which we 
have really little to do, Salisbury, from the fact of its 
position on the great thoroughfare to the west of England, 
has always played a prominent part in the history of the 
road — in times of civil commotion indeed, a part perhaps 
second to no other provincial town of its size and com- 
mercial insignificance. And so, long before coaches 
were built or flying machines dreamed of, this part of 
the Exeter road was trod by kings and queens, and 
courtiers and statesmen, who made at different times in 
their august and calculating lives the town of Salisbury 
their headquarters, cracked their mediaeval old pleasan- 
tries in the quaint old streets, caracoled along them, not 
in coaches and four, but on such gallant steeds and so 
caparisoned, as our eyes are feasted with on Lord Mayor's 
Day, gorgeous without and within, resplendent with vel- 
vet, and cloth of gold, and ermine, and stiff embroidery. 

First perhaps among the royal visitors to Salisbury was 
Richard the Second, who was here immediately before 
his expedition to Ireland, where he should clearly never 
have gone. But this visit does not seem to have been a 
success. There was, I fear, not enough largesse about 
during the last of the Plantagenets' stay, not enough 
tournaments and junketings, and conduits running 
rhenish, and cakes and ale ; for the good inhabitants 
seem to have been impressed so little with what was to 
be got out of Richard, that they a short time after 



THE EXETER ROAD 



119 







Quadrangle oj House, Extttr. 



expressed their thanks for his visit, by, with almost 
indecent alacrity, espousing the cause of Henry. 
Perhaps though it was the other way, and the disap- 



120 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

pointment of the good men of Salisbury at Richard's 
visit was caused by contemplation — not of how little 
they got out of Richard, but of how much Richard got 
out of them. For the kind king had an amiable inclina- 
tion towards charging his subjects with his outings ; 
and as his household consisted of ten thousand per- 
sons, three hundred of whom were cooks, and as this 
enormous train had tables supplied them at the king's 
expense ; some good quarters of an hour were spent by 
the purveyors, whose action was one of the chief reasons 
of public discontent, and who, no doubt, gave Salisbury 
good reason for recollecting their activity. 

The next arrival of importance at Salisbury was one 
of the four quarters of Jack Cade, a fifteenth century 
politician, of Irish origin, who held views on deep 
questions of rent and labour extremely in vogue at the 
present day but which in 1450 were, unfortunately for 
Cade, premature. Yes, like all really great men, Cade 
was considered to be before his time ! And so instead 
of being returned to Parliament as a Home Ruler, a 
price was set on his head, and he was killed by a 
Liberal Unionist of the period, one Iden, a gentleman 
of Sussex. Not however before Cade had had a good 
time of it with the fifteenth century unemployed, who 
saying (and quite correctly) in their hearts, " There are 
no police," demonstrated in London for some time, 
unopposed by law and the authorities, till a rich house 
or two were broken into, and plundered, when the 
Londoners felt that the time was come for action, and 
took the law into their own hands. 

Thirty-four years after Cade had suffered for advanced 
political principles by having one of his legs exposed in 
a cathedral town, the hunchbacked Richard honoured 
Salisbury with his presence ; but he was not I expect in 
the best of tempers, for here to him was brought the 
Buckingham we have all read of in the play, who had just 
seized the fleeting opportunity to head an insurrection 
against the king, in an unprecedentedJy wet season in 



THE EXETER ROAD 



121 




■ = ?25r 



JL-. X ■* — ■ 






jmfl^i. 



/'*« Elephant Inn, F.xetet. 



Wales. The result was that he was unable to cross the 
Severn, and this misfortune brought him too to Salisbury, 



122 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

where Richard was waiting to superintend his execution 
at what is now the Saracen's Head. 

In the courtyard of this inn, which was then called 
the Blue Boar, and not "in an open space," as Shake- 
speare has described it (as if he were speaking of 
Salisbury Plain), Buckingham had his head cut off 
according to contemporary prescription. We have none 
of us seen the episode presented on the stage, but we 
have read the carpenters' scene, which Shakespeare 
wrote in, to give the gentleman who originally played 
Buckingham a chance, and allow a few moments more 
preparation for Bosworth Field. And we may recollect 
that it consists principally in Buckingham asking 
whether King Richard will not let him speak to him, 
and on being told not at all, informing the general 
company, at some length, that it is All- Souls' Day, and 
that as s"6on as he has been beheaded, he intends to 
commence " walking." 

After Richard and Buckingham, there came to Salisbury 
in the way of kings, Henry VII. in 1491. Henry VIII. 
in 1535 with Anne Boleyn, already in all probability 
engaged in those sprightly matrimonial differences as to 
men and things which culminated the year following on 
Tower Green. Next in order, came to Salisbury, Eliza- 
beth, bound for Bristol, bent, as on all her royal pro- 
gresses, on keeping her nobility's incomes within bounds, 
and shooting tame stags that were induced to meander 
before her bedroom windows. After the virgin queen 
came James I., who liked the solitudes which surrounded 
the Salisbury of those days, for the two-fold reason, firstly, 
because they saved him in a large measure from the in- 
vasion of importunate suitors (who were afraid of having 
their purses taken on Salisbury Plain before they could 
proffer their supplications), and, secondly, because they 
were well stocked with all sorts of game on which he 
could wreak his royal and insatiable appetite for hunting. 
The " open " nature of the country might perhaps be 
added as another reason for the sporting king's liking 



THE EXETER ROAD 



"3 



for the place : for James was no horseman, and as he 
was in no danger of meeting a hedge in an area of thirty- 
miles, the going must have suited him down to the ground. 
Indeed I do not doubt, but that in ghostly form he still 
follows the celebrated Tedworth on their down days, 
riding on an invisible horse, propped on a well-pillowed 
and invisible saddle, and having an invisible bottle of 




Greek wine dangling on either side. His royal prefer- 
ence for Salisbury however drew a greater presence to 
the place, and associated the old cathedral town with a 
genius whose head James cut off, but in whose presence 
he was not worthy to stand. For here came Raleigh on 
his last journey to London, broken down by the shame- 
less ingratitude of princes, pining with the sickness of hope 



124 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

deferred. Here he sought a last interview and explana- 
tion with James, who sent word that he was sorry, but 
was hunting ; here he tried to gain time for his suit 
(foreseeing the Tower at the end of his journey to London) 
by feigning sickness by the aid of a French quack ; failing 
of course to move his drunken and hunting master's 
compassion in the least ; here he wrote his apology for 
the voyage to Guinea ; and hence he started on his 
last journey from Salisbury to London, the last of many 
journeys up the Exeter Road, from that west country 
which saw his birth — as it saw the birth of the best and 
greatest of English manhood — which fed his stirring 
genius with many a wild tale of sea romance and adven- 
ture, and whose pleasant green hollows " crowned with 
summer sea," still hold the decapitated head, in which 
thatwonderful,wild, restless brain throbbed, and schemed, 
and laboured. 

It is a long way from Raleigh to Charles II., though 
not so far from Raleigh to Cromwell, who was at 
Salisbury and on the Exeter Road on October 17, 
1646, after the taking of Basing House, as I have 
already remarked. The merry monarch was here twice, 
but on neither occasion, I suspect, was he peculiarly 
merry ; for after the battle of Worcester, when he lay 
concealed near the town for a few days, and his com- 
panions used to meet at the King's Arms in John 
Street, to plan his flight, the Ironsides were much 
too close on his track to allow opportunity for jesting ; 
and when he came here as king in 1665, all but the 
most forced mirth was banished from a court which 
dreaded every day to be stricken by the plague. 

I have already recalled the fact that it was from 
Salisbury that James II. fell back upon Andover, 
when the army which he had concentrated there to bar 
the way of William of Orange, departed on the more 
pastoral errand of conducting him in triumph to London ; 
and this episode in the Revolution closes, I think, 
Salisbury's historical account, which I am rather glad 



THE EXETER ROAD 



125 



of, as I am tired of kings, and pine for the more con- 
genial society of horses, hosts, footpads, of guards blowing 
horns, and coachmen staring at broken traces. 




St. Maryt Stefit. 



And Salisbury was, of course, a big coaching centre. 
Apart from the Quicksilver Mail, the wonder of foreigners, 



126 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



the envy of rival coach proprietors, which did the 175 
miles in eighteen hours, and caused rustics to stand in 
turnip fields motionless, gaping, paralytic with surprise 
for minutes after it had passed — when they set with 
trembling hands the correct London time on Brobding- 
nagian watches ; apart from the Devonport Mail, I say, 
a large number of coaches halted at and passed through 
Salisbury, some bound for Exeter, others bound no 




The Broken Trace. 



further, others bound for places like Weymouth, on the 
south-western coast. I have a list before me of some of 
these crack turn-outs, which constantly used to enliven 
the streets of the now sleepy old town with the clanging of 
horses' hoofs on macadamised roads, the sounding of horns, 
the objurgations of passengers irritable after a long jour- 
ney, and in a hurry to start on another, with the friendly 
greetings of rivals of the whip as they passed each other 
on their journeys up and down the great Exeter Road. 



THE EXETER ROAD 127 

In 1821, then, there set out for Salisbury, from the 
Angel, St. Clement's, what was known as the Post Coach, 
which started at 7 in the morning daily, and arrived at 
the White Hart, Salisbury, at 7.30 in the evening ; from 
the Bell and Crown, Holborn, the new and elegant Post 
Coach, which left London every evening at 6.15, and 
arrived at the Black Horse, Salisbury, at 6.15 next 
morning ; from the same inn in Holborn also departed 
at 3.30 daily, Saturdays excepted, what was known as 
the Old Coach, which arrived at 7 the next morning at 
the same Black Horse. Besides these, all more or less 
known to fame, there passed through Salisbury the Royal 
Auxiliary Mail, which started every afternoon at 6.15 
from the Bell and Crown, Holborn, and arrived at the 
New London Inn at Exeter at 7 next night ; the Eclipse, 
which left the Golden Cross, Charing Cross, daily at 7.30 
A.M. for Exeter, going by Salisbury, Blandford, 
Dorchester, and Bridport ; also the Royal Mail to 
Exeter, which left the Swan with Two Necks, Lad Lane, 
every evening at 7.30, and going by the same route as the 
last coach, arrived at the New London Inn at Exeter at 
9.30 next morning ; also the Regulator, whose acquaint- 
ance we have made already, which reached Exeter from 
London in twenty-six hours, starting daily at 3 o'clock in 
the afternoon from the same celebrated London house. 
Nor was the Weymouth Union, which left the Saracen's 
Head, Snow Hill, every afternoon at 4, less known in 
the streets of Salisbury than any of these former ; and with 
it the Accommodation post coach from the Swan with 
Two Necks entered into brilliant rivalry, and leaving 
London an hour earlier in the afternoon, arrived at 9 
o'clock next morning at the same seaside resort. 

The names of many celebrated coaches will be found 
missing from this list, some of which were not running 
at the time it was made, others of which were ; but it is 
not in my design to compile coaching statistics, for 
statistics I abhor ; and those on coaches, as on all other 
subjects, whether in the heavens above or on the earth 



128 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 




College Hall, Exeter. 



beneath, may be sought by students in the British 
Museum, where, if due pertinacity be theirs, they will, 
after many months, be voluminously found. No ! stat- 



THE EXETER ROAD 129 

istics are neither my object nor my forte. I wish only 
as I hurry along them (and this reminds me that Exeter 
is still ninety-one miles seven furlongs off) to give faint 
glimpses of the old life on the old roads, looking upon 
that life from all possible different points of view, and 
trying more to render its sentiment perhaps than to write 
its history. 

My readers, then, who have been loitering with me all 
this while at Salisbury, may remember that had they 
been travelling to Exeter in the finest age of coaching 
by the Telegraph, the fastest coach of the age, or nearly 
so, they would not have been at Salisbury at all, for the 
Telegraph diverged from the Salisbury road at Andover ; 
and as " the Lunnon Coach," a perpetual source of won- 
der to staring rustics at work on the wayside, went to 
Exeter by Amesbury, Deptford, Wincanton, and 
Uminster, I propose to follow this route as far as 
Deptford Inn, which is, or was, for its days are gone, a 
very celebrated house, standing about twenty-four miles 
from Andover, on the middle of Salisbury Plain. And 
then I shall leave the Telegraph to go on to Mere and 
Wincanton alone, and returning to Salisbury once more 
from Deptford (it is only eleven and three-quarter miles 
on the worst branch line in Europe), shall go down to 
Exeter by the route taken by the Telegraph's great rival, 
the Quicksilver, which did (I never can sufficiently 
impress my readers with the astounding fact) the 175 
miles from London in eighteen hours, and went by 
Shaftesbury, Sherborne, Yeovil, Crewkerne, and Chard. 

Meanwhile we have to do with the Telegraph, and'the 
first thing that the Telegraph Coach did after leaving 
Andover was to turn to the right, and do a three-mile 
stretch of collar work to Weyhill, at which place is 
annually held a fair, which would make those people 
who have never seen one stare. This festivity, which is 
indeed quite an un-English and out-of-the-way sight, 
begins on October 10th (Michaelmas Eve) and goes on 
for six days, during which all the country-side seems 

K 



13° 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS. 



to have broken loose, and high junketings are to be 
seen. Besides junketings (which prevail chiefly on the 
last day of the fair in connection with peep-shows of 




The Lunnon Coach. 



the most blood-curdling description, whirligigs, merry- 
go-rounds, rifle galleries, and gingerbread) are also to be 
seen wonderful shows of sheep, magnificent cheeses, 
the finest hops in England displayed in the Farnham 



THE EXETER ROAD 131 

Row, great exhibits of machinery and enormous cart- 
horses, and, enveloping all, a Babel indescribable. The 
whole thing is curious in the extreme and antique into 
the bargain — indeed the line in Piers Ploughman's 
Vision, 

"At Wy and at Winchester I went to the fair," 

is supposed to allude to Weyhill, and I have no doubt 
that it does, though I leave the decision of the point to 
the wise. 

After leaving Weyhill the Telegraph went by way of 
Mullen's Pond, where in the good old days there was a 
turnpike to give you pause (if you had no coppefrs), to 
the Park House four miles further on, in old days an 
inn of some importance, now a solitary beer-house, 
standing on the verge of desolate downs — on the verge 
of Salisbury Plain, in fact — across which the road runs 
under the side of Beacon Hill, a windy place celebrated 
for its hares, coursing meeting, and some time since for 
a march past held at the close of autumn manoeuvres ; 
then across the Bourne river into the extremely ancient 
town of Amesbury, which is fourteen miles from 
Andover and seventy-seven miles seven furlongs from 
Hyde Hark Corner. 

Over this bleak and inhospitable country, between 
Amesbury and Andover, the great snowstorm of 1836 
raged in a way which those who have seen a snowdrift 
on Salisbury Plain may best be able to realise, and the 
Telegraph Coach passed through the very thick of it. 
The guard of the mail who travelled with it on that 
memorable December 27, 1836, from Ilminstcr to 
London, had an experience to retail when he reached 
Piccadilly. The snow began to fall when the coach 
reached Wincanton, and never left off driving all the 
way to London. Nor did the coachman either, to his 
credit be it said, though over this tract of ground we are 
discussing two extra pairs of leaders were put on, and 
could only with the utmost difficulty and after much 

K 2 



132 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

" fanning " get, even in that reinforced state, through 
the mountainous snowdrifts. It must have been an 
awful drive that, I know ; for I know the country- 
well. 

For the present however we have safely arrived at 
Amesbury, where we can alight at the George and 
conjure up a celebrity or two before we go to supper. 
Amesbury indeed is rich in these, from the time when 
Guinevere arrived here somewhat late at night, after a 
ride across the Plain (which is more unlike Dore's repre- 
sentation of it than anything I have ever seen in my life, 
but this by the way), up to the time when the charming 
Duchess of Queensberry played the Lady Bountiful in 
the place, and by entertaining Prior and Gay at the 
Abbey graced the quaint old Wiltshire town with the 
memories of two of the not least celebrated of the 
English humorists. 

But indeed Amesbury is so ancient that if we cared 
to enter the sacred garden of the antiquary, and if 
Guinevere were not perhaps legendary enough, we might 
start the history of Amesbury further back than 
Guinevere. As an antiquity however I think that 
Guinevere may pass. After the unfortunate lady had 
retired from Amesbury 

"To where beyond these voices there is peace," 

hither came Queen Elfrida in 980 in search of it, after 
her murder of her stepson Edward at Corfe ; and bent, 
like all mediaeval murderesses suffering from a temporary 
mental depression, on building a church. When she 
came to the point however, and had interviewed the 
architect and the abbot, she went the whole hog, and 
built an abbey. In 11 77, I regret to say, all the ladies 
of this establishment were dismissed without a month's 
warning by Henry II. for staying out all night; and 
twenty-four nuns and a prioress from Fontevrault in 
Anjou, all with personal characters, filled the vacant 
places. Within the walls of this abbey a whole bevy of 



THE EXETER ROAD 



'33 



royal, hipped, and unfortunate ladies of all ages sought 
shelter from a wicked world. I must chronicle these, 
because they are all, from my point of view, memories 




Old Houses oh Ext Island . 



of the Exeter road, though the Exeter road at that time 
was but a mediaeval cart-track, and a very bad one too. 
At Amesbury then lived, and for the most part died, 



;51 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

Eleanor of Brittany, sister of Prince Arthur ; Mary, sixth 
daughter of Edward I., with thirteen ladies to keep her 
company. This was in 1285. In 1292 Eleanor, Queen of 
Henry III., died here, and Katharine of Aragon stayed 
for a while here on her first arrival in England in 1501. 

Shortly after this came the dissolution, when a some- 
what similar fate befell the old abbey as that which 
turned the castle at Marlborough into a posting inn 
and a public school. In point of fact, the abbey of Ames- 
bury became Amesbury Abbey, and passed from the Earl 
of Somerset, to whom it was granted by Henry VIII., into 
the respective hands of the Ay lesburys, Boylcs,and Queens- 
berrys, till, after the death of the fourth Duke of Queens- 
berry, the estate was bought by Sir Edmund Antrobus, 
in the possession of which family it still remains. 

Under the hospitable roof of the Duke and Duchess 
of Queensberry, when they were in possession at the 
abbey, the genial Gay passed the latter years of his 
epicurean life, " was lapped in cotton," as Thackeray 
has it, and " had his plate of chicken and saucer of cream, 
and frisked, and barked, and wheezed, and grew fat, and 
died." It was here that he wrote the Beggar s Opera 
(inspired by how many personal recollections of high- 
waymen, I wonder, gleaned on journeys between 
Amesbury and the capital ?), and in the garden there 
is shown, or used to be, a curious stone-room, built in a 
bank and overlooking the Avon (here famous for its 
trout), which is said to have been the poet's study. But I 
dare say that this is an allegory. The dining room would 
have been a more likely place for it I should have said. 

The Exeter road after leaving Amesbury mounts 
straightway on to Salisbury Plain again, and two 
miles from the town passes on the right Stonehenge, 
which I shall not write about, because everybody' 
has written about it, and most people have read 
what has been written. If anybody however who 
has not seen it, should chance to be in the 
neighbourhood I would advise them (without troub- 



THE EXETER ROAD 



'35 



ling themselves much beforehand as to whether it 
is Druidical, or post Roman, or built by the Belgae) to 
approach it from Amesbury about sunset, when they 
will see what they will see, and return home — or I am 
in error — well-pleased with what they have seen. From 
Stonehengc it is a run of little more than eight miles 
through Winterton-Stoke to the once celebrated 
Deptford Inn, of which, as I have said before, nothing 
is to be seen now, 
except its site, 
which is an ex- 
ceedingly pretty 
one, looking over 
the valley of the 
Wily. 

And here I shall 
leave the Tele- 
graph to continue 
its eagle flight, as 
Mr. Micawber 
would say, alone, 
merely remarking 
by the way that 
it went from 
Deptford to Hin- 
don, sixty - four 
miles four fur- 
longs from Hyde 
Park Corner, 
which is an an- 
cient market- 
town, and was once a rotten borough contested success- 
fully by " Monk " Lewis of The Castle Spectre renown 
and Henry Fox, afterwards Lord Holland ; and unsuc- 
cessfully contested by Lord Beaconsfield ; from Hindon 
the Telegraph went on to Mere, 101 miles 2 furlongs, noted 
for its Ship Inn, and a mediaeval house of plain 
Perpendicular in one of its streets ; and so on to 




An Exeter Cable. 



136 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

Wincanton, 108 miles 3 furlongs, noted for its Bear 
Inn, for a visitation of the Black Death in 1553, and 




Paying Toll. 



for the first blood shed in a slight skirmish in the 
Revolution ; and thence by Holton, and Sparkford 
Street, to Ilchester and Ilminster, which former place 



THE EXETER ROAD 137 

was once represented by Sheridan, and the neighbour- 
hood of which was the scene of an amusing difference 
between a toll-keeper and a guard, thus pleasantly told 
by Mr. Stanley Harris in his justly well-known work 
The Coaching Age. 

" The Exeter Defiance, one of Mrs. Anne Nelson's 
coaches from the Bull Inn, Aldgate, went through the 
gate at Staines ; all the tolls at the gates below were 
paid by the guard every Monday, amounting to about 
^30. It so happened that the keeper of the gate near 
Ilchester had got in arrear with his payments to the 
trustees, and accordingly their clerk served a notice on 
the guard of the coach not to pay him any more tolls. The 
gatekeeper to counteract this move, shut the gate before 
the time for the arrival of the coach. When the coach 
came in sight therefore, the guard blew his horn to no 
purpose, and couldn't get through till he had paid three 
shillings. Meanwhile with the assistance of a horse and 
trap, the pikekeeper reached the next toll, which the 
coach also found barred against it. This keeper being 
more obdurate than the other, the guard produced 
his tool-box with the object of breaking through 
the outwork. This led to fisticuffs between himself 
and the keeper, in which the keeper came off second 
best. The bout ending in the gate's being opened." 

Ilminster, to conclude, as readers of Thackeray may 
remember, was graced by the presence of Barry Lyndon 
in 1773, who lay at the Bell (now the George or the 
Swan presumably, for the Bell is at Ilchester) on his 
third night from town. Here, as he had previously 
done at Andover, he engaged himself in the pleasing 
distraction of cracking a bottle with the landlord, and 
overcoming by this recipe Lady Lyndon's natural vice 
of pride. There is nothing after this to notice in the 
fifteen miles between Ilminster and Honiton, where 
this Wincanton route joins the mail road from Salis- 
bury to Exeter, down which I now propose to travel. 

And I think that I will not go by the Quicksilver 



i3« 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



as I said I would, though it took the shortest route 
by Shaftesbury, Sherborne, Yeovil, and Chard, but will 
go instead by the old mail road via Blandford, Dorchester, 
and Bridport, by which such well-known coaches as the 
Eclipse, the Royal Mail, and the Regulator used to 
travel. And I select this route not only because it is the 
old mail road, but because it runs to my mind through 
a more interesting and storied country. At ten miles 




Fordt Abbey, near Chard. 



three furlongs from Salisbury, then, this road, to begin 
with, brings us to the once celebrated Woodyates Inn, 
and at the same time enters the delightful county of 
Dorset. And here we are surrounded on all sides with 
memories of that fatal rising which culminated on the 
bleak plain of Scdgemoor, and crushed for ever the 
daring hopes of the brilliant young nobleman who was 
for so long the darling of the West. The memory of 



THE EXETER ROAD 139 

Monmouth is still preserved about Woodyates. It 
was close to the Woodyates Inn that the giving in of 
the desperately ridden horses stopped the flight of 
Monmouth, Grey, and Buyse to the sea. 

Here the fugitives turned their horses loose, concealed 
the bridles and saddles, disguise^ themselves as rustics, 
and made their way on foot towards the New Forest ; 
and quite close by they fell into the hands of James's 




Old House at Bridport, at one lime the Castle Inn. 

troopers. Monmouth himself was taken on the Wood- 
lands Estate near Horton, his captors failing for some 
moments to recognise in the gaunt figure, crouching in 
a ditch, dressed like a shepherd, with a beard of three 
days' growth, already prematurely grey, the once brilliant 
and graceful son of Charles II. and Lucy Walters. The 
ash-tree under which he was discovered still stands. 

Three miles further down the road is Thorley Down 
Inn ; two miles beyond it stands Cashmoor, famous in the 



140 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



coaching days for post-horses, victuals, rum and milk, 
snug bars, and general accommodation of the best old 
English quality for man and beast ; and another seven 

miles and three 
furlongs bring us 
into Bland ford, 103 
miles 4 furlongs 
from Hyde Park 
Corner, celebrated 
for a disastrous fire 
in 1 73 1, to which 
it owes its present 
handsome appear- 
ance, and also for 
having been the 
scene in 1760 and 
1762 of some of 
Gibbon the histor- 
ian's outings with 
the Hants Militia ; 
or, as he more aptly 
describes it, of" his 
t=>NCfl"v • 'H!8¥E58t wandering life of 

^/V , * ' • tl^nnSH/ 1 military servitude." 

It was on the downs 
round pleasant and 
hospitable Bland- 
ford, in short, that 
" the discipline and 
evolutions of a 
modern battalion" 
gave the future 
historian of the 
Roman empire a 
clearer notion of 
the phalanx and the legion, or would have done, may I 
add ? if the captain of Hampshire grenadiers had not 
passed so much of his time in the Crown and the Grey-' 








Exeter. Charles II. hid in this House. 



THE EXETER ROAD 141 

hound ; for a page further on he speaks of the dissipations 
of pleasant, hospitable Blandford, in a strain of deeply 
philosophical regret. 

There is not much to be said for any place between 
here and Dorchester, which is sixteen miles down the 
Exeter Road. At Winterborne, Whitchurch, however, 
there is a church with a curious font in it, of which the 
grandfather of John Wesley, founder of Methodism, 
was vicar ; but he does not seem to have had a very 
pleasant time of it. For either by reason of having 
married the niece of Thomas Fuller, author of the 
Worthies ; or because he had not been properly ordained, 
he was much hunted up and down like " a partridge in 
the mountains," when the king enjoyed his own again. 
Four miles beyond Whitchurch, at Dewlish, there was 
a turnpike gate, I notice, but there does not seem to 
have been much else there of any interest, and so on to 
Dorchester (inns, the Antelope and the King's Arms), 
which was a posting-town of great importance, and is 
1 19 miles 6 furlongs from Hyde Park Corner. 

Dorchester has been remarkable for all time for its 
extreme healthiness, and was remarkable during the 
great Civil Wars for its antipathy to the king : two ex- 
tremes in the way of qualities which may cause 
wonder, but which are well vouched for nevertheless. 
For on the first peculiarity the celebrated Dr. Arbuthnot 
— Arbuthnot the learned, the fascinating, the friend of 
Pope, Gay, and Swift — who was here in his young days, 
remarks, " that a physician could neither live nor die at 
Dorchester," commenting on his own experience ; and 
on the second peculiarity, lack of loyalty, no less 
weighty an authority than Clarendon reports, that when 
the great Rebellion broke out, no place was more 
entirely disaffected. 

Less pleasant celebrities however than the brilliant 
author of the Art of Sinking in Poetry, Laiu is a 
Bottomless Pit, and the Effects of A ir on Human Bodies, 
haunt the streets of this almost aggressively healthy 



142 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



town. Recollections of Monmouth's rising spring up 
on all sides, terrible episodes of blood and cruelty, too, 
and the memory of a universally execrated monster. 
Dorchester was the second place Judge Jeffreys reached 
on the Bloody Assize. 




The White Hart, Dorchester. 



" The court," writes Macaulay, " was hung, by order 
of the chief justice, with scarlet, and this innovation 
seemed to the multitude to indicate a bloody purpose. 
It was also rumoured that when the clergyman who 
preached the assize sermon enforced the duty of mercy, 
the ferocious countenance of the judge was distorted by 



THE EXETER ROAD 



143 



an ominous grin. These things made men augur ill of 
what was to follow. 

" More than three hundred prisoners were to be tried. 




. <%B- j»^**«w^-*" 1 *'' 



j^!4?. 



"Judge Jtffrtys' Lodgings, Dorcktster. 



The work seemed heavy, but Jeffreys had a contrivance 
for making it light. He let it be understood that the 
only chance of obtaining pardon or respite was to plead 



144 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



guilty. Twenty-nine persons who put themselves on 
their country and were convicted were ordered to be 
tied up without delay. The remaining prisoners pleaded 
guilty by scores. Two hundred and ninety-two received 
sentence of death." 

Jeffreys, after this amiable display of judicial activity, 
retired to his lodgings in High West Street (DuffaH's 




Charles Kecognised by the Ostler. 

glass-shop), where he no doubt partook of brandy, 
according to his convivial wont, slept the sleep of the 
conscienceless carouser, and left for Exeter next day. 

And by the same road that we are on now, by 
Winterborne Abbas, through Winterborne Bottom, past 
Longberry turnpike gate, 540 feet above the sea, then 
down a descent of two miles to the Travellers' Rest, 



THE EXETER ROAD 



145 




Tkt Packkom, Bridport. 

253 feet above the sea, and then down into Bridport, 
1 34 miles 4 furlongs. 

L 



146 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

The inns in Bridport proper used to be, in the coach- 
ing days, the Bull and the Golden Lion ; but half a 
mile distant, on the quay, there is a house called the 
George, where Charles II. was nearly seized in 165 1, by 
reason of an ostler recognising his face — a compliment 
at the moment not appreciated by our future king, who 
made the best of his way to Salisbury via Broad- 
windsor — a very out-of-the-way route surely. But 
main roads at the time were not Charles's fancy. He 
would have preferred tunnels had they been in vogue. 
Meanwhile we must go on to Exeter, past Chidiock, 
where there used to be ruins of an old manor house 
belonging to a family of the same name, but which now 
is not, thanks to Time and Colonel Ceely, Governor of 
Lyme in 1645. At Charmouth, which is one of the 
most charming places on the Southern coast, Charles II. 
was nearly caught, before he was nearly caught at 
Bridport in the manner already described ; but while at 
Bridport the fatality almost occurred through an ostler's 
recognising the fugitive's face, here at Charmouth a 
village blacksmith got upon the scent by observing with 
much curiosity that the horse's three shoes had been 
set in three different counties, and one of them in 
Worcestershire ; which, considering that the Battle of 
Worcester was in everybody's mouth, was too near the 
mark to be pleasant, and caused the much hunted 
Charles to get instantly to horse. 

At Hunters' Lodge Inn, about four miles on, the 
road enters the pleasant county of Devon, and then 
passing through Axminster (occupied by Athelstan in 
938, after the battle of Branesdown, and by Monmouth 
in 1685, a few days after his landing at Lyme) runs 
through Honiton (visited by Charles I. in 1644), and 
thence by Fenny Bridges, Fair Mile Inn, Honiton 
Clyst, into the town of Exeter, which by this route is 
172 miles 6 furlongs from Hyde Park Corner. 

Much might be written about Exeter, its history, its 
site, its castle, its promenade on Northernhay, its beau- 



THE EXETER ROAD 



147 



tiful cathedral. I shall content myself however with 
remarking that the town has been besieged more times 
than I can remember ; that Pcrkin Warbeck, one of 
the many claimants who troubled Henry VII.'s diges- 
tion, was in 1497 led through the picturesque streets 
clothed in chains as in a raiment ; and with that I shall 
pass on to the inns of this terminus of the great western 
road, and to the coaches and the great coachmen who 




The Georgr Inn, Axmimtc*. 



The Half Moon, Exeter. 



haunted them. For I have not yet touched upon 
the coachmen on the Exeter road, and yet they were 
mighty men in the land. 

The principal coaching inns at Exeter then were the 
Old London, and the New London, and the Half Moon, 
kept by a Mr. Stevens who immortalised himself by 
putting on the celebrated Telegraph, which used to 
leave Exeter at 6.30 A.M., breakfasted at Ilminster 
dined at Andover, and reached Hyde Park Corner at 

L 2 



148 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

9.30 P.M. In the way of coaching this record of the 
Exeter Road was hardly if ever beaten ; and as for the 
coachmen who performed this and kindred feats of 
different character, but all of the highest style of art, I 
cannot more appropriately round the Exeter Road's 
story than by solemnly, and in the place of honour, 
inscribing their great names. First then let mention be 
made of the incomparable Charles Ward, who drove 
the Telegraph out of London ; and after him, let there 
be ranged in no narrow spirit of rivalry, but in the order 
which chance and my note-book dictates, the following 
masters of their art : Jack Moody, who worked on the 
Exeter Mail, an out and outer, whose fine performances 
on the road were interrupted at last by ill health, whose 
retirement was the signal for general mourning, and 
whose appearance and execution on the box were as 
superior to other coachmen as night is to day ; " Pop," 
a coachman on the Light Salisbury, whose father hunted 
the Vyne Hounds ; Mountain Shaw, the respectable, 
the scientific, who drove Monk's Basingstoke coach to 
London one day and down the next ; Jackman of the 
Old Salisbury, who was a great favourite with his 
master, whose cattle were always of unequalled size and 
condition and than whom no one in England who sat 
on a box-seat better understood the art of saving horses 
under heavy work. 







Castle Arch, Guildford. 



III.— THE PORTSMOUTH ROAD. 

THE Portsmouth Road has been described to me by 
one having authority as the Royal Road ; and certainly 
kings and queens have passed up and down it, eaten and 
drunken in the Royal Rooms, still to be seen in some of 
the old inns ; snored in the Royal Beds (also in places to 
be seen, but not slept in), and dreamed of ruts and bogs, 
and blasted heaths and impassable morasses, and all 
the sundry and other mild discomforts which our an- 
cestors, whether kings or cobblers, had to put up with ; 
or those among them at all events who travelled when 
the weather was rainy, and there were no real roads to 
travel upon. 

To me however the Portsmouth Road — so-called Royal 
— presents itself in a less august guise ; so much so 
that if I were asked to give it a name whereby it might 



150 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

be especially distinguished, I should be inclined, I think, 
to call it the Road of Assassination. And it will be 
found to have claim to the title. Apart from Felton's 
successful operation on the Duke of Buckingham at 
Portsmouth in 1628, which marks the terminus with a 
red letter ; and the barbarous doing away of the 
unknown sailor on September 4th, 1786, which has 
made the weird tract of Hindhead haunted ; the beau- 
tiful country between Rowland's Castle and Rake Hill 
yields an especially prime horror. For here was enacted 
at the latter end of the last century that protracted 
piece of fiendish brutality known as the " Murder by the 
Smugglers," an atrocity which was spun out over eleven 
miles of ground, which out-Newgates anything of the 
kind to be found in the Newgate Calendar, and of which 
I shall have more to say when I get to the scene of its 
commission. Here meanwhile we have three good juicy 
murders in seventy-one miles, seven furlongs — the dis- 
tance from the Stone's End, Borough, Surrey, to 
Portsmouth ; and that is a fair average of crime for 
mileage, as I think most people will admit. 

The old Portsmouth Road, as appears above, is mea- 
sured from the Surrey side of the water ; and it was 
from the Surrey side that old-fashioned visitors to 
Portsmouth started. Pcpys, in 1668, having received 
orders to go down to Portsmouth in his official capacity, 
and having gone through the usual formalities of going 
to bed, waking betimes, &c, &c, discovered suddenly 
that his wife (who no doubt suspected junketings on 
the part of the susceptible Samuel) had resolved at an 
hour's warning to go too. So Samuel first of all sent 
her mentally to the deuce, and then to Lambeth, where 
she embarked in a coach. Samuel, after having ad- 
journed to St. James's and remarked " God be with 
you " to a Mr. Wren (who surely ought to have remarked 
it to Samuel, considering the state of the Portsmouth 
Road), went over the water to what he calls Fox Hall, 
where he ingeniously intercepted the coach containing 



THE PORTSMOUTH ROAD 



151 




Tk* Angel, Guild tout 



152 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

his wife ; and in due course lost his way for three or 
four miles about Cobham, at the very moment when he 
was hoping to be seated at dinner at Guildford. 

In 1668 the Portsmouth and Guildford Machines left 
London (as the South-Western Railway leaves it now, 
but not quite so quickly) by Vauxhall, Battersea, 
Wandsworth, and so on to Putney Heath ; and so the 
route is marked in Carey's Itinerary. In more modern 
times however the Portsmouth coaches felt it incumbent 
upon them to appear (like everything else that was 
fashionable) in Piccadilly, and, starting from the White 
Bear, made the best of their way to Putney without 
troubling to cross the Thames till they got there. 

Most of us connect Putney in our minds with the 
Oxford and Cambridge boat-race, and attempts more or 
less successful to see it ; but the place has a history 
other than an aquatic one — was indeed the birthplace of 
two very celebrated men, and the scene of a third one's 
death. At Putney was born Thomas Cromwell, black- 
smith first of all, and afterwards, according to Mr. 
Froude, the most despotic minister who ever governed 
England. " Fierce laws," writes the same picturesque 
historian, " fiercely executed — an unflinching resolution 
which neither danger could daunt, nor saintly virtue 
move to mercy — a long list of solemn tragedies weigh 
upon his memory. Be this as it will, his aim was noble." 
He certainly made it hot for the monks, having no doubt 
learned the lesson in very early days at his father's forge, 
the site of which is still somewhat apocryphally pointed 
out, south of the Wandsworth Road. 

At Putney also was born, " April 7th, O.S., in the year 
one thousand seven hundred and thirty-seven " — as he 
writes it in that delightful autobiography, which will 
always be read, I fear, in spite of Mr. Ruskin's thunders 
— Edward Gibbon, whom we have met already down the 
Exeter Road at Blandford, carousing and masquerading 
as a militiaman. The house in which the future author 
of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire was born 



THE PORTSMOUTH ROAD 



153 




Courtyard, White Hart, Guildford. 



was bought by his grandfather, who used to exercise "a 
decent hospitality" in its spacious gardens on summer 
evenings. It lies between the Wandsworth and Wimble- 



154 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

don Roads, and since the days of the Gibbons has been 
successively inhabited by Mr. Wood, Sir John Shelley, 
and the Duke of Norfolk. These be good tenants, but 
I prefer the Gibbons myself. I like to think of Edward 
in his young days at Putney, a fat, heavy, and huge- 
headed boy, voted by his neighbours uncommonly slow, 
but with his precocious brain already working — not on 
consuls and legions, and emperors and bishops, and all 
the rest of the gorgeous paraphernalia with which he 
was one day to make his name immortal — but on that 
large appreciation of creature comforts, of the good 
things of this good earth which his dawning intelligence 
felt about his father's house, and which he has thus in his 
autobiography so whimsically described — 

" My lot might have been that of a slave, a savage, or 
a peasant ; nor can I reflect without pleasure on the 
bounty of Nature, which cast my birth in a free and 
civilised country, in an age of science and philosophy, in 
a family of honourable rank, and decently endowed with 
the gifts of fortune. From my birth I have enjoyed the 
rights of primogeniture ; but I was succeeded by five 
brothers — and one sister — all of whom were snatched 
away in their infancy. My five brothers, whose names 
may be found in the parish register at Putney, / shall not 
pretend to lament." 

Happy eldest son, I say. Proper predilection for 
primogeniture's enjoyable rights ! 

To finish with Putney and its celebrities (for I must 
be getting forward to Portsmouth as quickly as local 
celebrities and legends will permit) — at Bowling Green 
House, on the east side of Putney Heath, lived, and on 
the twenty-third of January, 1806, died, William Pitt, 
broken-hearted at the news of Austerlitz, confident that 
the map of Europe would be needed no more. And not 
far off the house where the great statesman lay dying, 
still stands the small inn where the wire-pullers of both 
parties put up their horses, while they made inquiries 
couched in a true spirit of Christian and political 



THE PORTSMOUTH ROAD 



155 



sympathy, as to how the struggle between death and the 
invalid was getting on in the sick chamber — alternately 
(as they chanced to be Whig or Tory) jubilant or 
depressed as the bulletins were issued ; tremulous with 
anxiety even in their cups as to which way the political 
cat would jump. 

Now the road runs over Putney Heath, where our 
ancestors (who had drunk three bottles over night and 




A Duel on Putney Heath. 

transmitted the blessings of gout to a distant posterity) 
showed, in a humorous age, so little lack of humour as 
to appear early on a frosty next morning to be skewered 
by a blackleg parading as a boon companion in the 
presence of sharps for seconds. The preliminary nego- 
tiations have been well described by the late Lord 
Bcaconsfield, and should be commended to our cousins 
in France and on whatever other barbaric shores the 
code of the duello still ridiculously lingers. 



156 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

" Did you ever," somebody or other says in Vivian 
Grey, " fight a duel ? " . . " No ? Nor send a challenge 
either ? " (a very different thing !) " Well, you are fresh 
indeed ! 'Tis an awkward business indeed, even for the 
boldest. After an immense deal of negotiation, and 
giving your opponent every chance of coming to an 
honourable understanding, the fatal letter is at length 
signed, sealed, and sent. You pass your morning at your 
second's apartments, pacing his drawing-room with a 
quivering lip and uncertain step. At length he enters 
with an answer, and while he reads you endeavour to 
look easy, with a countenance merry with the most 
melancholy smile. You have no appetite for dinner, but 
you are too brave not to appear at table ; and you are 
called out after the second glass by the arrival of your 
solicitor, who comes to make your will. You pass a 
restless night, and rise in the morning as bilious as a 
Bengal general." 

So slept and so rose, and in such a state appeared on 
Putney Heath, in the history of the Portsmouth Road in 
1652, Lord Chandos and Colonel Compton, when the 
latter was run through the body after half-a-dozen 
passes ; in 1798 Mr. Pitt and George Tierney, M.P. for 
Southwark ; and in 1809 my Lord Castlereagh and Mr. 
Canning. 

The passengers in the up mail from Portsmouth must 
often have passed about this neighbourhood the meaning 
procession of principals, seconds, and leeches, making 
with a ghastly ostentation of indifference for the cele- 
brated heath ; the principals as yellow as Disraeli has 
described them, the seconds full of the importance of 
self-security, the leeches sniffing guineas in the morning 
air. The passengers on the down coaches to Portsmouth 
may have seen such inspiring spectacles as well — and 
after having remarked to one another, " another affair," 
passed on to Kingston (which is eleven miles five furlongs 
from the Stone's End, Borough), where they breakfasted. 

The old inn at Kingston, which used to be called 



THE PORTSMOUTH ROAD 



157 



the Castle, is now, like many another such place, con- 
verted into dwelling-houses, and in the process (as is 
also, alas ! usual) a valuable record has been lost. But 
there is antiquity enough about Kingston to make up 
for the practical disappearance of its old inn. To say 




Back of Red Lion, Guildford. 



Bakers' Market liouu 
(>tow demolished). 



that its importance as a town dates from the Saxon 
period has long since failed to convey any meaning to 
a posterity who have ceased to recognise celebrated 
names under the disguise of pedantic spelling ; but 
Egbert was here discoursing on state affairs long before 
coaches ran to Portsmouth (though Ecgberht will be 



i 5 8 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



preferred by Mr. Freeman) ; and in the open space in 
front of the coachhouse is, or was, a shapeless block 
placed in an octagonal space, upon which eight kings 
were crowned. 

From kings to public houses the transition is easy ; 
and permits me the opportunity of remarking that the 
Griffin and the Swan have taken the place of the trans- 
formed Castle, and still retain the traditions and the 
ale of the old days, when I should not like to say how 

many coaches, chaises, 
and travelling-waggons, 
passed through the old 
town between sunrise and 
sunrise. 

Let a few of the more 
celebrated coaches suffice 
— for I must not in my 
history of the Portsmouth 
Road lose sight of the 
coaching portion of it, 
though the Portsmouth 
Road does not take a 
high place in the record, 
for speed, coaches or 
cattle. Amongst the 
coaches then which in 
1 82 1 (to be particular in 
dates) passed through Kingston may be mentioned — 

The Royal Mail, which left the Angel, St. Clement's, 
Strand, at half-past seven every evening and arrived at 
the George, Portsmouth, at 6.30 next morning ; from 
the same house the Portsmouth Regulator, which 
departed at eight in the morning and arrived at the 
George, Portsmouth, at five the same afternoon ; from 
the Belle Sauvage, Ludgate Hill, departed every morning 
the popular and celebrated Rocket, which same coach left 
the White Bear, Piccadilly, at nine, and did the seventy- 
one miles, seven furlongs to Portsmouth in nine hours, 




Birthplace of Archbishop Abbot, Guildford. 



THE PORTSMOUTH ROAD 



159 



arriving at the Fountain, Portsmouth, at 5.30 to the 
minute. From the Cross Keys, Cheapside, the Light 






\ 




Old Court, Guildford. 



Post Coach took eleven hours to do the journey, leaving 
London at eight every morning. The Portsmouth 
Telegraph leaving the Golden Cross, Charing Cross, im- 



160 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

proved upon this performance, but still failed to beat 
the Rocket by half an hour. 

Besides these once familiar names must be chronicled 
the Hero, from the Spread Eagle, Gracechurch Street, 
which left the city daily at 8 A.M. and arrived at the 
Blue Post, Portsmouth, at 6 P.M. ; from the same house 
the Night Post Coach, 7 P.M. from London, getting 
its passengers to the same inn at Portsmouth, sick no 
doubt of an all-night journey, but just in time for a 
good breakfast ; and finally several light post 
coaches from the Bolt in the Tun, the Spread Eagle, 
and other well-known inns, which ran no further than 
Godalming, taking about five hours to compass the 
thirty-three miles. 

Leaving the town by any of these coaches (if we did 
not meet one Jerry Abershawe, whose name now, like 
many others of ephemeral celebrity, awakes no echo in 
our breasts, but who was in his day a noted highwayman 
much revered and feared, greatly given to robbing 
travellers to Portsmouth, and to drinking at a road-side 
house called the Bald-Faced Stag, now no more to be 
seen on earth) — leaving Kingston and this digression 
behind us, I say, we should soon in the old coaching 
days have covered the four miles to the pretty village of 
Esher, and stopped of course at the Bear. 

And at Esher the Portsmouth Road is connected with 
another great historical character, who lived near here in a 
fine, damp house picturesquely situated on the banks of 
the river Mole ; and must, one is tempted to think, have 
often travelled from his country seat to Westminster sur- 
rounded with all the pomp and circumstance which he 
so particularly affected, in an age remarkable perhaps 
above all others in our history for splendour and 
pageant. 

But to suppose this would be, I regret to say, an 
historical error; for in 1529 when Wolsey was ordered 
to retire to Esher, he was ordered to retire there because 
his royal master was bilious ; and when Henry the 



THE PORTSMOUTH ROAD 



Mil 



Eighth was bilious, melancholy marked his courtiers 
for her own. No ! there was not much magnificence 
about Wolsey during the short time he stayed at Esher 
Place. He had no steward about him, " which was 
always a dean, or priest ; no treasurer — a knight ; no 
controller — a squire — who always had within his house 
their white staves ; " nor in his privy kitchen had he the 
master cook. " who," according to Cavendish, " went daily 







The Bear, Esher. 



in satin, damask, or velvet, with a chain of gold about 
his neck " — though a white cap and apron would surely 
have been more in harmony with the surroundings. No, 
Wolsey, when he retired to Esher Place, had none of 
these things. He was closely shorn of all his magnifi- 
cence, and was indeed in want of the common necessaries 
of life. His dejection was not mitigated by this starved 
condition of the larder, nor by the dampness of the 
house, of which he wrote a sad account to Gardiner, 

M 



1 62 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



describing it as the reverse of a desirable country 
residence, and as being remarkable for its moist and 
corrupt air. And yet it seemed to me an attractive 
place enough when I was there the other afternoon. A 
fallen minister however is not likely to be pleased with 
any palace ; and I dare say that Wolsey from sheer 
ennui and lack of company used often to steal up to the 
Bear (disguised as a pedlar of course according to 
immemorial prescription), spend a pleasant evening on 
the ingle bench with the local boors, hear them discuss 

his own disgrace 
and his chances of 
restoration to royal 
favour, and then 
steal back again to 
the lonely house by 
the Mole — late and 
beery. 

Not that the beer 
of the Bear would 
have done the car- 
dinal any harm, if 
it was as good a 
tap then, that is to 
say, as it is now. It 
probably brought 
him a temporary re- 
turn of luck, for in 
1530 he was taken 
into favour again, and left Esher Place for the north. At 
Esher however the memory of the Ipswich butcher 
boy (who of course never was a butcher boy at all — 
are any of our fond historical beliefs to remain un- 
subverted ?) is preserved ; as also is the memory of 
another great man who lived in the neighbourhood, 
travelled much on the Portsmouth Road, rose from 
almost as low a grade as the great cardinal, was 
equally successful in making by force his merit known. 




Water Gate, Wolsey s Palace, Esher. 



THE PORTSMOUTH ROAD 



163 



Claremont, which lies immediately at the back of the 
Bear, is a palace now ; but I doubt whether its towers (if 




Tht OU Church, Ether. 



they can be seen) excite more interest among the 
inhabitants than they used to in the days when they 

M 2 



164 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

sheltered the gloomy life of the hero of Arcot and 
Plassy. Lord Clive lived at Claremont during many 
of the latter years of his life in the present house, 
which he built on the site of Vanbrugh's palace. But 
the Trajan of England, according to Macaulay, was more 
feared than admired by the simple inhabitants of Esher. 

" The peasantry of Surrey," he writes in his Essay 
on Clive, " looked with mysterious horror on the stately 
house which was rising at Claremont, and whispered 
that the great wicked lord had ordered the walls to 
be made so thick in order to keep out the devil, who 
would one day carry him away bodily." This is what 
comes of being a warrior of the rank of Lucullus, and 
a reformer of the rank of Turgot and Lord William 
Bentinck — but I must get on to Guildford. 

Not however before noticing the enormous pair of 
jack boots (on view in the entrance hall of the Bear, 
and redolent with memories of miry roads, ruts a yard 
deep, coaches hopelessly stuck in morasses, and other 
picturesque incidents of the travelled past), which boots 
are said to have been worn by the fortunate postillion 
who went with the pair of fortunate horses which drew 
the unfortunate Louis Philippe's carriage when Clare- 
mont sheltered the royal exile. I can only remark in 
leaving these boots that they are " very fine and large," 
and are obligingly shown to all visitors at the Bear by 
the obliging landlord ; and so pass on to Cobham, three 
miles four furlongs down the road, on the heath, sur- 
rounding which place, had we been travellers to Ports- 
mouth in the year of grace 1668, we should have found 
Mr. and Mrs. Pepys aimlessly wandering, having lost 
their way " for three or four miles." Travelling at a 
later date however we should not, I take it, have seen 
much at Cobham, except the White Lion, a fine old relic 
of old coaching days — out of the rush of life now, but 
alive still ; where, having taken a glass of rum and milk, 
we should pass on to Ripley, three miles seven furlongs 
on, noted for its cricketers, its green on which they play 



THE PORTSMOUTH ROAD 



i6 5 



fas' 




?y 



Guildford Town /fall. 



Courtyard of the Crown, Guildford. 



cricket, its old inn, the Talbot, full of gables, long corri- 
dors, and hoary memories of gastronomic feats, performed 
by cramped travellers in the twinkling of an eye to the 



166 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



accompaniment of the guard's horn, relentlessly pro- 
claiming imminent departure. And from Ripley it is a 
run of six miles into Guildford, which is twenty-nine 
miles seven furlongs from the Stone's End in the Borough, 
the capital of Surrey, a most picturesque town, and a 




Fireplace in Abbot's Hospital. 



good place to dine at after rambling about lost on a 
Common, as Mr. Pepys in 1668 found. 

The inns of Guildford were in the coaching days the 
Crown and the White Hart, when the constant throb of 
traffic on the direct Portsmouth Road must have kept the 
now sleepy old place from ever even nodding ; but there 
is not much throb of traffic about the High Street now; 
and Guildford sleeps on its past according to the present 



THE PORTSMOUTH ROAD 



167 



comfortable practice of most provincial towns, most of 
them equally suggestive of laudanum, mandragora, 
poppies, hop-pillows, and other sedatives ; few of them 




A Comer of Abbot's llotpital at Guildford. 



(as to their High Street, at all events) half so picturesque. 
I have heard that the record of Guildford goes back to the 
days of Alfred, but I have not, I confess, inquired too 
curiously into this matter ; having found a passage in the 
town's history to my mind more interesting, and of » 



i68 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



trifle later date. In the upper room of the tower then, 
over the entrance gateway of Archbishop Abbot's 
hospital, the unfortunate Duke of Monmouth was lodged 
on his way to London after his defeat at Sedgemoor. 
The melancholy journey from Ringwood — where Mon- 
mouth was kept for five days after his capture — to London 
occupied the better part of a week, ended at Vauxhall, 
and thus gave another interesting personage to the 




Old Mill near Guildford. 

Portsmouth Road. In the coach with the Duke was an 
officer, whose orders were to stab the prisoner if a rescue 
were attempted. The captive himself made no attempt 
however for liberty ; the large body of regular troops and 
militia who served as guard probably convinced him of 
the utter hopelessness of any such attempt, if the utter 
prostration from which he was suffering had not made 
even an attempt impossible. Monmouth indeed was 
unnerved to such an extent that through the whole of 



THE PORTSMOUTH ROAD 169 

the trying journey to London he made the spectators 
stare at his pusillanimity ; as Grey, his companion in 
bonds, made them stare with his incessant cheerful chatter 
on dogs, field sports, horses, and other subjects of general 
interest, not however supposed commonly to occupy the 
attention of travellers going to certain death. 

At. the pretty town of Godalming, four miles two fur- 
longs further on, most coaches stopped for refreshments 
at the King's Arms ; a house which I see scored in 
my note-book as famous for good dinners ; and here 
or at the George some of the coaches from town, as I 
have already observed, stopped altogether. Charles the 
Second used to be seen at Godalming a good deal, hunt- 
ing and flirting when he ought to have been otherwise 
employed ; and a timbered house in Bridge Street is said 
to have been his hunting lodge, or, to be quite accurate, 
was said to be, before it was (as usual) pulled down. A 
short distance west of the railway station is Westbrook, 
not a particularly beautiful house by any means, but long 
the residence of the Oglethorpes. Here a very delightful 
gentleman of the old school was born in 1698, and here 
he died in 1785. I refer to General Oglethorpe, sports- 
man, soldier, and kindly patron of literature ; an amiable 
combination surely which deserved success in life, and 
General Oglethorpe gained what he deserved. As a 
patron he defended Samuel Johnson ; as a soldier he 
was present with Prince Eugene at the siege of Belgrade ; 
and as a sportsman he shot a woodcock in what is now 
the most crowded part of Regent Street. As a triple 
record, this, I believe, will be found hard to beat — if 
indeed it does not absolutely take the cake. 

After leaving Godalmjng and Milford behind them, 
careful coachmen used in the old days to save their 
horses, especially if they had a heavy load and the roads 
were heavy ; for it is collar work now almost all the 
five miles on to the top of Hindhead Hill, long before 
which summit was reached careless coachmen who had 
not followed the above prescription discovered the pain- 



170 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

ful fact that " there was no life in the coach," which, 
being interpreted from the dark language of stage 
coachmen, means that they found themselves travelling 
slowly over deep and gravelly roads. They also found 
themselves, if in mood for such observation, in the face 
of one of the wildest bits of scenery to be found in Eng- 
land, and face to face with a silent memorial of murder. 
This takes the form of a gravestone placed simply by 
the roadside, with an inscription on it, simple enough 
also, but which when read in so lonely a spot on the 
closing in of a November afternoon, has been known to 
give a chill. It sets forth its erector's and all honest 
men's detestation of a barbarous murder committed on 
the spot on the person of an unknown sailor (who lies 
buried in Thursley Churchyard, a few miles off) ; and 
airs also with some satisfaction the feeling then very 
prevalent (before Scotland Yard was), that murderers are 
a class who invariably fall into the hands of justice. We 
are perhaps not so credulous as this nowadays ; but we 
put our trust in a large detective force when our throats 
have been cut, and hope for the best. The local police 
of 1786 however could have given many of our shining 
lights a lesson, it seems to me ; for on the very afternoon 
of September the 4th in that year (which was the date of 
the murder) they apprehended three men named Lone- 
gon, Casey, and Marshall, twelve miles further down the 
road, at Sheet (or in a public-house opposite to the Fly- 
ing Bull at Rake, as some accounts say), engaged in the 
unwise exercise of selling the murdered man's clothes. 
For this, and previous indiscretions, they were presently 
hanged in chains on the top of Hindhead as a warning 
to his Majesty's liege subjects ; and not much to the 
delectation of travellers on the Portsmouth Road I should 
apprehend, especially when tired by a long journey, and 
when the wind was favourable. On the site of the 
original gibbet the late Sir William Erie, Lord Chief 
Justice of Common Pleas, set up a beautiful granite 
monument, with a Latin inscription on each of the four 



THE PORTSMOUTH ROAD 



171 



sides, which much puzzles amiable youths rusty in their 
Latinity, when, accompanied by inquisitive maidens, they 
have breasted the steep pitch of the hill. 

And now it is all down hill into Liphook, five miles 
from Hindhead, and here late coaches made up for lost 
time. The Seven Thorns inn, a little way down the 
road, is supposed to stand where the three counties 
meet ; but it doesn't, for they meet in Hammer Bottom, 




The Seven Thorns. 



which is some distance away. The Seven Thorns, apart 
from this undeserved distinction, has the reputation of 
being a legendary house ; but I have never been able 
to discover what legend is attached to it ; nor indeed, 
so far as I am aware, has anybody else. It was how- 
ever the scene of an adventure in a snowstorm, which I 
find chronicled in the Reverend G. N. Godwin's Green 
Lanes of Hampshire, Surrey, and Sussex, and which 



172 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



I shall take the liberty of extracting for the benefit of 
my readers : — 

" The snow," writes Mr. Godwin — and he is repeating 
the story of an old stage coachman — " was lying deep 
upon Hindhead, and had drifted into fantastic wreaths 
and huge mounds by the fierce breath of a wild 
December gale. Coach after coach crawled slowly and 




Charging a Sitow-drift. 



painfully up the steep hill, some coming from London, 
others bound thither. But as the Seven Thorns was 
neared they one and all came to a dead stop. The 
tired, wearied, exhausted cattle refused to struggle 
through the snow mountains any longer. Guards, 
coachmen, passengers, and labourers attacked those 
masses of spotless white with spade and shovel, but all 
to no purpose. It seemed as if a way was not to be 



THE PORTSMOUTH ROAD 173 

cleared. What stamping of feet and blowing of 
nails were there ! Women were shivering and waiting 
patiently ; men were shouting, grumbling, and swear- 
ing ; and indeed the prospect of spending a winter's 
night on the outside of a coach on such a spot was, to say 
the least, not cheerful. At last a brave man came to 
the rescue. The Star of Brunswick, a yellow-bodied 
coach that ran nightly between Portsmouth and London, 
came up. The coachman's name was James Carter, 
well known to many still living. He made very little 
to do about the matter, but whipping up his horses, he 
charged the snow-drifts boldly and resolutely, and with 
much swaying from side to side, opened a path for him- 
self and the rest." 

I do not know whether Mr. Godwin refers in this 
stirring episode to the great snowstorm of 1836; but 
if he does his story accounts for a fact which has caused 
me a good deal of surprise. For I find that of all the 
main roads of England the Portsmouth Road (far from 
being the least exposed of any of them) was the only 
one which was kept open. And in this case the credit 
belongs to gallant James Carter and the Star of Bruns- 
wick — and much credit it is. 

From the Seven Thorns into Liphook is a nice run, 
not unadapted to the agreeable pastime of " springing 
them," which as I have before interpreted into common 
or ordinary English, means galloping pure and simple, 
a practice not at all uncommon to the Portsmouth Road 
in spite of the poor times made, as I shall presently 
show. Meanwhile we have arrived at the Anchor at 
Liphook, which is one of the most famous houses 
between London and Portsmouth, and is forty-five miles 
five furlongs exactly from the Stone's End, Borough. 
And the Anchor at Liphook not only is an historical 
house, but has the advantage of possessing in Mr. 
Peake a host, who is proud and careful of its history — a 
pleasant experience which I regret to say I have found 
far from common in my wanderings. Indeed many 



174 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

houses as old as the Anchor on the great roads, some 
too on this very Portsmouth Road that I am speaking 
of, have had as full a tide of history fill their state 
rooms and flood their broad corridors as the famous inn 
at Liphook can boast of. But where is this history 
now ? It is simply gone for want of being garnered. 

Not so at the Anchor ; where, thanks to a decent care 
for memorials of the past, and to a respect for that 
Romance which is becoming so extremely unfashion- 
able, we are able to meet in the imagination a whole 
crowd of distinguished guests of all centuries and all 
ranks — kings, queens, statesmen, admirals, soldiers, 
down to clerks in the Admiralty in the person of 
Samuel Pepys ; who having lost his way at Cobham 
on his way to Guildford, as already chronicled ; and 
having dined at Guildford and congratulated himself 
and his wife on having found it ; lost it again coming 
over Hindhead on his way to Liphook, and arrived at 
the Anchor at ten o'clock on August 6, 1668 — exceed- 
ingly tremulous about highwaymen and in company 
with an old man, whom he had procured for a guide. 
" Here, good honest people," he writes. " And after 
supper, to bed." I can imagine that succulent supper 
well, taken with an appetite whetted by a long ride in 
moorland air, and flavoured with an agreeable recollec- 
tion of past perils safely surmounted. I can imagine 
also the sound sleep which fell afterwards on the amiable 
Samuel ; and the nightmares, graphically representing 
coaches standing on their heads with their occupants 
inside them, which, to break the monotony of a too 
perfect repose, passed now and then under his cotton 
night-cap. 

But more celebrated people than the theatre-loving 
clerk of the Admiralty (was he a dramatic critic I 
wonder like all Admiralty clerks now ?) stayed at the 
Anchor, and before his time. Edward the Second was 
hunting in Woolmer Forest continually ; and unless he 
liked camping out on marshy heaths, probably put up 



THE PORTSMOUTH ROAD 175 

with his suite at the old hostelry, whose internal arrange- 
ment by the way he threw into some disorder by bringing 
his own cook with him — a very bad compliment to the 
house surely. And the cook, whose name was Morris 
Ken (no ancestor I presume of the Bishop) was not less 
cook than acrobat ; continually pretending to fall off his 
horse as he rode before the king through the forest, after 
the manner of the clowns at Sanger's. And the Royal 
Plantagenet is said to have laughed consumedly at this 
foolish feat on the part of Ken, which had nothing to do 
with his cooking ! and ordered twenty shillings to be 
given him out of the parish poor box — I mean out of 
the Royal Exchequer. 

Of crowned heads besides Edward the Second, who 
have at times honoured Liphook with their august 
presences may be numbered — Edward the Sixth, who 
must at all events have come very near to the place, on 
the only royal progress which he had time to make in his 
short life — to Cowdray ; Elizabeth on her royal progress 
from Farnham to the same fine seat (safely arrived 
at which, need I say, that she shot the proverbial stag ?) ; 
Charles the Second on his way to Portsmouth ; and 
indeed every English king that was ever crowned, it seems 
to me, and who was anxious for an outing, and wanted 
to see his ships. 

Queen Anne however came to Liphook for a different 
purpose, namely, to see her stags, which in those days 
wandered over the royal Forest of Woolmer. With 
which end in view she turned off the road at Liphook 
after luncheon, and very unwisely (as she was always 
rheumatic) reposed on a bank, which was smoothed for 
that purpose, lying about half-a-mile to the east of 
Woolmer Pond. Thus enthroned she saw the whole 
herd of red deer, brought out by the keepers and driven 
along the vale before her, consisting then of about 500 
head. After which she went back to the Anchor to 
dinner, no doubt well pleased with what she had seen, 
and I hope took some hot toddy. 



176 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



To complete the chronicle of the guests at the Anchor 
— for I am still twenty-six miles and two furlongs from 
Portsmouth — maybe named King George the Third and 
Queen Charlotte, the Duke of Clarence, afterwards 
William the Fourth. The allied sovereigns after the 
campaign of 181 5, in company with Blucher and the 
Duchess of Oldenburg. The Queen of Spain and the 
Queen of Portugal. Liberty Wilkes, who used to lie 
here on his journeys to and from Sandown, and lastly 
the Duchess of Kent and the Princess Victoria. There 




The Anchor, Liphook. 

is a Court Circular flavour about this list which entitles 
the Anchor, I think, to its epithet of Royal, and Mr. 
Peake thinks so too. 

To leave him and his fine old house behind us, and to 
descend from kings to coachmen, the eight miles between 
Liphook and Petersfield — the next change — was the 
scene of a race between two coaches, or rather between 
three, which might have ended in a casualty of no 
common order, but didn't, thanks about equally, I should 
suppose, to good luck and good management. Mt. 



THE PORTSMOUTH ROAD 



177 



Stanley Harris tells this story well in his Coaching Age 
— which remains in spite of all other rivals the text- 




Tht Anchor, Lipheok. 



The Perch. 



book on this great subject. And an old coachman 
speaks. 

" It happened," said he, " that when he was driving on 

N 



178 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

the Portsmouth Road there were two other day coaches 
on it ; but as they left Portsmouth at different hours, 
there was no fear of their coming into contact. With 
the down coaches it was different, as from their leaving 
London by different routes, and from other circumstances, 
such as stopping or not stopping to dine, they would 
sometimes in the middle of a journey all get together, as 
they did one day, when on returning he overtook the 
other coaches at the Anchor at Liphook, where they 
changed horses and dined. The coachman asked him 
what time he intended to get to Portsmouth that evening, 
to which he replied much about the same as usual ; and 
he then left." 

But, alas ! while this coachman, who had hitherto 
resisted temptation, was changing horses at the Wheat- 
sheaf inn half a mile out of the village, the other two 
coaches, who had changed at the Anchor, came by at a 
round trot, and shot out at him the tongue of the scorner. 
At this the blood of the old coachman boiled ; in point 
of fact he said, " I will pursue," and he was fortified in 
this wicked determination by his fresh team being com- 
posed of four thoroughbred horses. He pursued accord- 
ingly, and soon came in sight of his rivals, one a little 
in advance of the other, and travelling as fast as they 
were able. Upon this the old coachman flung official 
directions and prudence to the winds and " sprang his 
cattle." Success soon rewarded this disregard for the 
safety of his passenger's neck. He overtook the 
Regulator, which was the name of one of the rival 
coaches, as it was ascending Rake Hill. The Hero 
however, which was the name of the other coach, he saw 
still about half-a-mile in front of him. Upon this, <: he 
sprang his cattle " more than ever, and the only passen- 
ger in his coach, a soldier, was tossed about on the roof 
like a shuttlecock on a battledore. This however was 
as nothing in the old coachman's eyes, who could see 
nothing with them but his rival, and him he overtook on 
the top of Sheet Hill. The old coachman and the 



THE PORTSMOUTH ROAD 179 

driver of the Hero, now qualified for charioteers in the 
Roman chariot races at the Paris Hippodrome, by 
driving their respective vehicles at full gallop down a 
steep and winding pitch. At the bottom of it they met 
a post-chaise returning from somewhere or other ; but 
they did not heed it ; the petrified post-boy only saved 
his neck by driving at full speed into a ditch. So far 
so good ; especially as the old coachman now thought 
he saw the Hero beaten. He marked a place therefore 
in his mind's eye on the opposite rise where he might 
pass her comfortably ; and when he came to the place 
he had marked, he came with a rush. The old coach- 
man's leaders, answering to the call gamely, were 
already by the front wheels of the Hero, when what 
happened ? Why the driver of the Hero suddenly 
pulled his horses right across the old coachman's leaders' 
heads ;. who thus at the very moment that he thought 
he was going to snatch a victory, found himself driven 
up a bank. Fortunately no strap or trace, or buckle, was 
broken by this extremely ungentlemanly manoeuvre, or 
the old coachman would at the finish have been nowhere ; 
but as it was he was never after able to get beyond the 
hind boot of the Hero, who won therefore at the Dolphin 
by a short length. 

Time — twenty minutes for the eight miles. 

Result of the race — three of the Hero's horses never 
came out of the stables again, and a complaint to the 
proprietors. 

There is not much to see in the town of Petersficld, 
except the memories of old coaching days which linger 
round the three inns, the Castle, now turned into a 
private house, the Dolphin, the Red Lion, and the 
White Hart. Two miles out of the town the Ports- 
mouth Road passes Buriton, the home for some period 
of Gibbon, on the left ; and then, assisted by a chalk 
cutting, crosses Buster Hill, which is the highest of the 
Southdowns, and commands everything from the spire 
of Salisbury Cathedral to Chanctonbury Ring, a little 

N 2 



i8o 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



beyond Worthing. Here, to geologise, the chalk is 
entered : and here, to be historical, a gentleman was 
stopped by a highwayman, who presented a pistol and 
modestly demanded horse, money, and watch. These 
the gentleman handed over and returned to Petersfield 
exceeding sorrowful. The highwayman meanwhile 
made for Hindhead, hotly pursued by a hue and cry. 




Seeing which condition of affairs he foolishly enough 
dismounted and sought consolation by grovelling in the 
heather — which was a fatal instance of bad judgment, 
and enabled him shortly afterwards to feast his eyes on 
the interior of Winchester Gaol. 

The Portsmouth Road after passing through Horn- 
dean, which is ten miles from the terminus, runs for 



THE PORTSMOUTH ROAD 



181 



about four miles through the forest of Bere ; in which 
tract of country the "old coachman" of the racing 
episode, enjoyed a further adventure in a thick fog, and 
a rime frost upsetting his coach with a noise like the 
report of cannon while he was listening to the aimless 
babblings of a loquacious passenger. The coach was 
not empty on this occasion either. On the contrary 
there were four young ladies inside it, who must have 




§££ 



Racing the Mail. 



been artless creatures indeed, for they were fast asleep 
when the coach was upset, and woke up when it was 
being restored to its equilibrium, and remarked, "What 
is it ? " Some gipsies who were chiefly instrumental in 
removing the coach from its side, showed themselves 
more wide-awake ; for mistrusting the gratitude of 
upset coachmen while with one set of hands they 
reared the upset coach, with the other set of hands they 



182 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

removed several baskets of game, which according to 
the custom of the day were hanging underneath it. And 
the coachman did not discover till he got to Portsmouth 
that his generous assistants had thus earned their 
reward ! 

And this brings me to the second of those three 
crimes which, as I said in the beginning of this chapter, 
gives the Royal Road in my eyes so unenviable a 
notoriety. I do not purpose to treat the atrocity known 
as " The Murders by the Smugglers," at any great 
length, or with any detail, though a curious pamphlet 
which I have by me entitled, " A full and genuine 
History of the Inhuman and Unparalleled Murders of 
Mr. William Galley, a custom-house officer, and Mr. 
Daniel Chatcr, a shoemaker, by Fourteen notorious 
Smugglers with the trials and Execution of Seven of 
the Bloody Criminals at Chichester," would enable me 
if I had the inclination to do both the one and the other. 
I leave however the full accomplishment of so graceful a 
literary labour to the young disciples of M. Zola in this 
country ; assuring them that in the above pamphlet 
(which by the way is very scarce) they will find abun- 
dance of that precious documentary evidence concerning 
the abysms of human depravity, the spectacle and 
analysis of which affords them such radiant delight. 
In my eyes the subject is totally unfit for literary 
treatment. A bare statement however of it I feel 
forced to make, not only because its ghastly memory 
still haunts this part of the Portsmouth Road 
(so poignantly did the atrocity touch the imagination 
of a generation little given to hysteria), but because 
the criminals formed a characteristic portion of a class 
of desperadoes who were the terror of travellers on 
this part of the Portsmouth Road in George the 
Third's time, and lend therefore local colour, however 
detestable, to this part of the Portsmouth Road's 
history. 

AU through the last century, then, it seems the 



THE PORTSMOUTH ROAD 183 

country from Portsmouth, almost as far as Liphook, 
was infested by gangs of smugglers of whom the 
poachers who still confer notoriety on some of the 
villages of the area may be perhaps the lineal de- 
scendants. 

From time to time, after some unusually audacious 
outbreak against custom-house laws had taken place, 
violent reprisals were made ; but on the whole the 
revenue officers seem to have had decidedly the worst 
of it, and the smugglers enjoyed an enviable immunity 
from the retribution of justice. The climax to this 
condition of affairs came on the 6th and 7th of October, 
1747, when a gang of some sixty of these desperadoes 
assembled secretly in Charlton Forest ; made a sudden 
raid on Poole ; broke open the custom, where a large 
quantity of tea which had been seized from one of their 
confederates, was lodged, and made off with the booty, 
without encountering any resistance from the surprised 
authorities. 

The smugglers returned to their quarters by way of 
Fordingbridge, and it is here that one of their future 
victims first makes his appearance in the history. 
Daniel Chater, a shoemaker of the place, was standing 
watching the triumphant procession as they riotously 
passed his house, when he recognized a man among 
them who had worked with him in the last harvest- 
time. The man thus recognized, whose name was 
Diamond, not altogether relishing the attention, threw 
Chater a bag of the stolen tea as he passed him — by 
way of a sop to Cerberus. Shortly afterwards however he 
was unfortunate enough to be taken into custody at 
Chichester on suspicion of complicity in this very 
Poole affair ; and the fact coming to Chater's ears, he 
was tempted by the promise of a reward to accom- 
pany a Mr. William Galley, a custom-house officer, to 
Chichester for the purpose of identifying Diamond. 
And Galley carried a sealed letter to Major Battin, a 
justice of the peace for Sussex, clearly setting forth the 



184 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

object of the journey. Never probably did a letter 
prove more fatal to its bearers. 

The above is but the prologue to the tragedy. The 
tragedy itself was set in motion by the arrival of Chater 
and Galley at the White Hart, Rowlands Castle, in the 
company of a Mr. George Austin, who had found them 
somewhere out of their proper road, and had undertaken 
to set them right. No sooner had they arrived at the 
inn than the landlady, a Mrs. Payn, friendly of course 
to smugglers and highwaymen, seems to have been 
struck with a sudden suspicion — that there was some- 
thing in the custom-house officer's presence which boded 
no good to her friends. She communicated her fears 
to Mr. George Austin, who, by way of assuring her 
that they were groundless, told her that the custom-house 
officer and his friend were simply bearers of a letter to 
Major Battin at Chichester. But this ominous fact, far 
from comforting Mrs. Payn, only assured her that she 
had harped her fears aright. She knew that Diamond 
was in bonds at that very place, and that Major Battin 
was a justice of the peace. She took instant action. 
First she advised Mr. George Austin to leave Chater's 
and Galley's company at once or harm would come to 
him (a hint which he with pusillanimous alacrity availed 
himself of), and then when he was safely off the premises, 
she sent for seven smugglers resident in the place — by 
name William Steele, William Jackson, William Carter, 
John Race, Samuel Downer, Edmund Richards, and 
Henry Sheerman, and confided to them her suspicions 
and her fears. 

They too took alarm. For some time divided councils 
prevailed as to what course should be taken to provide 
most effectively for their own and Diamond's safety ; 
but by and by it was generally felt that the first step to 
be taken was to ascertain beyond all doubt the contents 
of the letter which Galley and Chater were carrying to 
the Chichester magistrate. The smugglers at once pro- 
ceeded to carry out this scheme with an assurance 



THE PORTSMOUTH ROAD 185 

which was assisted from the first by the total ignorance 
which Chater and Galley showed of the gravity of their 
own situation, or of the profession and character of the 
men who surrounded them. 

The old programme was pursued. An impromptu 
fight was got up ; Galley, on being struck on the mouth 
by Jackson, called out that he was a king's officer, and 
could not put up with such usage. Then followed the 
usual pretended reconciliation, and then the drinking 
bout to set a seal to it. 

In the midst of this, the unfortunate victims — who were 
already, as it were, dead men — from some smuggler's 
chance observation, dropped probably in incipient drunk- 
enness, seem suddenly to have realized what kind of 
company they were in, and at the same moment their 
dire danger. They began to be uneasy, and wanted to 
be going. But they were prevailed upon with force to 
stay and drink more rum ; and the drink, drugged in 
all probability, soon had its intended effect. Galley and 
Chater became unconscious, were dragged into a 
neighbouring room, thrown upon a bed, and their 
vital secret was directly afterwards in their enemies' 
hands. 

A brief consultation now took place among the 
smugglers, not as to whether Galley and Chater should 
be murdered or not, but as to the most convenient manner 
of murdering them. Two ladies, Jackson's and Carter's 
wives, who with several more smugglers had recently 
joined the party, thus expressed their views : " Hang the 
dogs, for they came here to hang us." 

This view of the case seems to have in an instant 
turned men into monsters. A devilish fury possessed 
the whole company. Jackson rushed into the room where 
Chater and Galley were sleeping. He leaped upon the 
bed and awakened them by spurring them on the fore- 
head. He flogged them about the head with a horse- 
whip till their faces poured with blood. Then they were 
taken out to the back yard, and both of them tied on to 



186 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

one horse, their four legs tied together, and these four 
legs tied under the horse's belly. 

They had not got a hundred yards from the house 
when Jackson, in one of those sudden accesses of fiendish- 
ness continually characteristic of the whole affair, and 
which seemed a veritable possession of the devil himself, 
yelled out — " Whip them ! Cut them ! Slash them ! 
Damn them ! " and in an instant the whole gang's devil- 
ish fury was wreaked on their bound and helpless 
enemies. Past Wood Ashes they whipped them, past 
Goodthorpe Dean, up to Lady Holt Park. Here they 
proposed to throw Galley into the well. 

The wretched man, who had already fallen off the 
horse three or four times, in the very exhaustion of agony, 
welcomed death loudly as a release. Upon which his 
tormentors decided to spare his life for a little more 
torment, and whipped him over the Downs till he was 
so weak that he fell. 

But it is not my intention to trace the red steps of 
this barbarity further. The details sicken. It is suffi- 
cient to say that near Rake Hill Galley fell off the horse ; 
and was supposed to have broken his neck. He was at 
once buried in a fox earth, in Harting Coombe, alive 
presumably, since when he was found his hands covered 
his face as if to keep the dirt out of his eyes. Chater 
did not find so fortunate a release from his torments. 
He was kept for over two days chained by the leg 
in an outhouse of the Red Lion at Rake, " in the most 
deplorable condition that man was ever in ; his mind 
full of horrors, and his body all over pain and anguish 
with the blows and scourges they had given him." All 
this while the smugglers were calmly debating as to 
how they should finally make an end of him. At length 
a decision was come to. Subjected all the way to treat- 
ment which I cannot describe, he was taken back to 
the same Harris Well where it had been originally pro- 
posed to murder Galley ; and after an unsuccesful 
attempt at hanging him there, he was thrown down it, 



THE PORTSMOUTH ROAD 



187 



and an end put at last to his awful sufferings by heavy 
stones being thrown on the top of him. 

This last act in this unparalleled atrocity was com- 
mitted on the Wednesday night or Thursday morning. 
The victims had set out for Chichester on the Sunday 
before. This four days' murder was avenged at Chi- 
chester shortly afterwards, when all the principals were 
executed at Broyle, near the town, amidst the universal 
execrations of a crowd drawn from two counties. The 
body of Carter was hung in chains on the Portsmouth 
Road on Rake Hill ; the bodies of the other murderers 




The Jolly Drovers on Rake Hill. 

being distributed between Rock's Hill, near Chichester, 
and the sea-coast, near Selsca Bill, whence they were 
visible for miles. 

And that is the end of the story of the murders by 
the smugglers ; and I am glad myself that I am at the 
end of it. It is pleasant after such a horror to arrive 
at last at Portsmouth, though I have nothing much to 
say about the old town now that I have got there. The 
usual number of kings and queens visited it by sea and 
land, the latter sea-sick, the former inquisitive about 
the state of their navy. Robert, Duke of Normandy, 



i88 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

landed here in iioi, bent on an argument with his 
brother Henry as to who should wear the crown. Henry 
however elected to wear the crown and avoid the argu- 
ment, in which I think he was wise. Richard the First 
gave the town its first charter ; and at Portsmouth in 
1290 the first oranges were landed in England by a 
Spanish vessel as a present for the Castilian wife of 
Edward the First. 

Besides these royalties already mentioned, Henry the 
Eighth was at Portsmouth once or twice. Edward the 
Sixth came here in 1552, not in the best of moods, and 
remarked that the bulwarks of the town were " charge- 
able, massy, and ramparted " (whatever that may mean), 
" but ill-fashioned, ill-flanked, and set in remote places " 
(which is more clear) ; after which he left for London ; 
and left Elizabeth to correct the faults he had pointed 
out ; and James the Second to inclose Gosport within 
its present lines. 

I have described enough scenes of blood in the seventy- 
one miles seven furlongs from London, it seems to me, to 
suit the most sanguinary taste, and a great deal more than 
suits my own. But still I cannot leave Portsmouth, the 
terminus even of the road, without reminding my readers 
that at what was in 1628 the Spotted Dog Inn, and what 
is now a gabled house known as 12 High Street, Villiers, 
Duke of Buckingham, the Steenie of King James, was 
assassinated by John Felton, a discontented half-pay 
officer, just as the Duke was about to sail to the relief of 
La Rochelle, then being besieged by Richelieu. Lingard 
has written the history of the episode ; and the great 
Dumas, in the Three Musketeers, has written its romance ; 
and the subject has been too well treated by both writers 
in their different styles to make a subject for me. It 
remains for me to remark that the journey of Felton to 
London, where he was hanged, drawn, and quartered at 
Tyburn, was accomplished amid scenes of extraordinary 
and many-sided excitement ; and coming, as it does, 
before a similarly mournful expedition over the same 



THE PORTSMOUTH ROAD 189 

ground on the part of the Duke of Monmouth, seems to 
me to cast a characteristic gloom over the annals of 
a road — not remarkable for coaching anecdotes or 
coaching records — which has been called Royal, and 
rightly perhaps enough, — but which has yet witnessed, 
so far as its historical side is concerned, and so far 
as my knowledge goes, gloomier and more tragic 
scenes than any other of the great thoroughfares out 
of London. 





Hqij 







' y' 1 



IV.— THE BRIGHTON ROAD. 



A PECULIAR flavour of the Regency lingers about the 
record of the Brighton Road. It is a record, as I read 
it, of bucks, with stupendous stocks, and hats with brims 
weirdly curly, casting deathly glances at lone maidens 
perambulating haplessly by the wayside ; a record of 
" The Fancy," as I see it drawn for me in the classic 
pages of Boxiana — thronging in their thousands, and in 
almost as many different kinds of conveyances to witness 
one of the many great battles decided on Crawley Down 
or Blindley Heath ; a record finally of the great George 
himself, repairing to the health resort which his royal pene- 



THE BRIGHTON ROAD 



191 




J f\£ 



£ r 



^ 



Rtgtncy Buck*- 



192 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

tration had discovered, and repairing there in a coach and 
four, driven by his own royal hands, at the rate of fifty- 
six round miles in four hours and a half. 

Indeed it seems to me that the Brighton Road might 
almost be called the Regent's Road. For where without 
the Regent would its terminus have been ? Why, it 
would have been nowhere ; or it might have been at St. 
Leonards, Eastbourne, or anywhere else. When once 
however the Regent has discovered that the air of Brighton 
tended to benefit his health, he made a centre of fashion 
out of a small health-resort, almost before he had time to 
finish the Pavilion ; and one of the finest of the coaching 
roads of England out of an uncertain track, often im- 
passable. 

For before the Pavilion was, Brighton was about as 
easy to get at as Cranmere Pool in the middle of Dart- 
moor, the moon, the North Pole, the special exits in case 
of fire at our principal theatres, or anything else on earth 
totally inaccessible. When in 1750 the genial Doctor 
Russell, of Lewes, found himself better for a trip to the 
small fishing village, and induced some of his fair 
hypochondriacs to go there too ; how they were to get 
there, considering the state of the roads — if they could 
be called roads — was the conundrum which they gener- 
ally proposed. And I have no doubt that Doctor 
Russell of Lewes prescribed oxen as a means of transit ; 
for oxen were about the only beasts of burden which 
could cope, at the time I speak of, with the country's 
wickedly deep ruts. People got into coaches to go to 
Brighton and only got out of them when they were 
overturned. Princes on Royal progresses sat fourteen 
hours at a stretch in state carriages, without being 
able to get an atom of refreshment into their royal jaws. 
In 1749 Horace Walpole cursed the curiosity which had 
tempted him to tour in a country in which he found neither 
road, conveniences, inns, postillions, nor horses ! What 
did\\e. find in Sussex ? one is tempted to ask. Why, he 
found that " the whole country had a Saxon air " (which 



THE BRIGHTON ROAt) 



193 



seems a very remarkable discovery to have made) ; and 
" that the inhabitants were savage " — which is a discovery 
not so remarkable.when one remembers that near Brighton 
not long ago one of these savages ran at a lady with a 
pitchfork for riding over a turnip-field. Poor Horace 




A Snapped Pole. 



had no such adventure as this — so far as I can learn ; but 
it was clear to him that " George the Second might well 
be the first monarch of the East Angles," and "that 
coaches grew in Sussex no more than balm or spices " ; 
almost immediately after which horticultural remark he 

O 



194 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

had to leave his post-chaise (for some horrid reason which 
he veils from posterity), and take to pedestrianism — a 
form of exercise which he ever particularly loathed. No 
doubt however he would have bewailed his wrecked 
post-chaise more had it resembled " a harlequin's Calash " 
less ; and a harlequin's Calash too " which was occasion- 
ally a chaise or baker's cart " — which is the most re- 
markable definition of a vehicle that I have chanced on 
between Boadicea's chariot and a hansom cab ! Who 
can wonder after reading it, that the man who had rested 
in it found Sussex " a great damper of curiosity " ? I 
cannot wonder for one. 

All these horrors of the Brighton Road the much 
abused George the Fourth did away, with the sweep as 
it were of his fat, bejewelled, and august hand ! He 
built the Pavilion, and people from all parts of the country 
came straightway to see it and him. Now in building 
the Pavilion, there can be no manner of doubt I think 
in reasonable minds that the first gentleman in Europe 
did the " accursed thing " spoken of by the prophet ; 
but when the crowds which this atrocity attracted are 
considered, almost half the sin may be forgiven him. 
For the crowds soon found from such miry experiences 
as have already been detailed, that if they were to come 
to Brighton, and to court, they had better have some 
decent road to come upon. And from this simple bring- 
ing home of a plain truth came into existence the Brighton 
Road — " perhaps the most nearly perfect, and certainly 
the most fashionable of all " — according to " Viator," 
who should know what he is talking about. 

And not one road only ; but three roads — in point of 
fact, according to some authorities, about five. From 
having practically no road to it at all, there is surely no 
place in England which can be reached — (or rather 
could be in the coaching days, for we can now only go 
by the London and Brighton Railway) — could be 
reached, by so many different routes as Brighton. Of 
these the favourite — called the new road — went by 



THE BRIGHTON ROAD 



'95 




A Visit to the Invalids. 



Croydon, Merstham, Rcdhill, Horley Turnpike, Bal- 
combe, and Cuckfield, making the distance fifty-one 
miles three furlongs ; then there was a route through 

O 2 



196 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



Ewell, Epsom, Dorking, Horsham, and Mockbridge, 
making the distance fifty-seven miles five furlongs. A 
more favourite way than any was by Croydon, Merstham, 
Reigate, Crawley and Cuckfield — making the distance 
fifty-three miles exactly ; while the longest and the 
oldest route was through Croydon, Godstone Green, 
East Grinstead, Nutley, Naresfield, Uckficld, and Lewes 




The Maiden's Head, Uckfield. 

— the entire distance being fifty-eight miles two furlongs 
from the Surrey side of Westminster Bridge, which is 
the point from which the Brighton Road is measured. 
Of the celebrated coaches which ran by these various 
routes, and which all made fast time, due mention must 
be made, as also of their coachmen, of whom however 
the already mentioned " Viator " seems to have held no 
extraordinary opinion. Of the coaches Carey's Itinerary 



THE BRIGHTON ROAD 197 

of 1 82 1 gives me the names of some eighteen — all 
celebrated, and many of which I recollect hearing spoken 
of, by one who had travelled in most of them, long 
before I ever thought it would be my lot to revive their 
memories. There started then in the prime era of 
coaching — circa 1821 — from the Angel, St. Clement's, 
Strand, at 9.30 every morning for Brighton, the Light 
Post Coach, which went by Reigate and Cuckficld ; from 
the Bell and Crown, Holborn, the Alert (Safety) Coach, 
which started daily at 8.30 A.M., and arrived at Brighton 
at 4 ; from the Old Bell, Holborn, the Meteor daily at 
10.30 ; the True Blue, from the Blossoms Inn, Cheapside, 
started daily at 9 A.M., and did the journey in six hours ; 
as also did the Night Coach, from the same inn — which 
was extremely good travelling. Amongst other cele- 
brated coaches whose names were once household words 
may be mentioned the Royal Eagle, which left the Boar 
and Castle Inn at midday ; the Royal Clarence, from 
the Bull, Bishopsgate, at 8.30 every morning, and which 
took a still different route from any that I have yet 
named — going by Lindfield and Ditchling ; the Life Pre- 
server, daily at 8.45 from the Cross Keys, Cheapside ; the 
Regent, daily at 8 A.M., from the Flower Pot, Bishopsgate 
Street ; the Original Red Coach — vid Croydon, Reigate, 
and Crawley — from the Golden Cross, Charing Cross, 
at 9 every morning ; the Eclipse, at 2 in the afternoon, 
from the same celebrated house ; and to make an end, 
from the Spread Eagle, Gracechurch Street, the Dart, at 
2.45 P.M., and the Sovereign at 6.45 in the morning ; 
the Royal Brunswick at 2.30 daily from the Spur in the 
Borough ; the Rocket at 9.30 A.M., and the Tally-ho at 
10 A.M. daily from the White Bear, Piccadilly ; the 
Princess Charlotte, which left the White Horse, Fetter 
Lane, at 9.30, and going the favourite route through 
Croydon, Reigate, Crawley, and Cuckfield, reached 
the Old Ship at Brighton at 5 in the afternoon ; and 
finally in the post of honour the celebrated Vivid, 
which did the journey in five hours and a quarter- 



198 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

Of the coachmen on this celebrated road for travelling, 
as I have already remarked, a great authority on the 
subject held a poor opinion. And why ? Simply 
because, according to "Viator Junior" (quoted by 
Captain Malet in his Annals of the Road, to which ex- 
haustive authority I gratefully recommend coaching 
fanciers), simply because the excellence of the road 
annihilated the breed. This severe critic indeed ranges 
forty-five trembling coachmen i-n his judicial mind's eye, 




The Village Cage. Lindfteld. 

and out of the whole batch is only able to select seven 
or eight worthy of the title of " artists ; " capable, as he 
poetically puts it, of " hitting 'em and holding 'em." Oh, 
what a fall is here ! But Viator Junior proceeds to 
details. Not having travelled in an excursion train (he 
writes in 1828), he marvels how passengers can trust their 
necks to coachmen, utterly incompetent to take along a 
heavy load in safety, at the pace at which the Brighton 
coaches are timed — and then a ghastly vision of incom- 



THE BRIGHTON ROAD 



199 



petence rises before his critical ken. " This very 
day," he writes, " I saw one of the awkward squad 
keep his coach on her legs by pure accident, in bringing 
her with a heavy load round the corner by the king's 
stables ; and as his attitude was rather good I'll en- 
deavour to describe it. His bench " [here he proceeds 
to attain to the irony of Sophocles], " his bench was very 




The Star, Alfriston. 

low ; and he himself is rather a tall man ; his legs, 
tucked under him as far as possible, were as wide apart 
as if he was across one of his wheels ; both hands had 
hold of the reins which, though perfectly slack, were 
almost within his teeth ; his whip was stuck beside him 
(in general however it is hanging down between his 
wheel horses, about the middle of the footboard), and to 
complete the picture, his mouth was gaping wide open. 



200 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



like Curran's Irishman endeavouring to catch the 
English accent." This satiric touch is surely not un- 
worthy of a coaching Swift — but to continue to the bitter 
end. " South of York," writes Viator, " I have not 
often seen this man's fellow ; but surely Providence 
must keep a most especial guard over him ; for I 
understand he has worked some years on the same 
coach without an accident. And judging from ap- 



^m. 




pearances it is a daily miracle that he gets to his 
journey's end." 

A personal experience gave shortly afterwards to this 
all-seeing eye another example of incompetence in 
Brighton coachmen. He mounted on a coach driven 
by one who, had he measured tape behind a linen- 
draper's counter, would in Viator's opinion, have more 
nearly fulfilled the purpose for which Providence had 
designed him. Instead of measuring tape however, 
unfortunately he held the ribbons — also a cigar — horresco 



THE BRIGHTON ROAD 201 

referens, between his teeth. He also had a pair of bad 
holders as wheelers (both thoroughbreds) to complete 
the situation, and the miserable slave to tobacco could 
not keep them out of a canter. He was more successful 
in putting his chain on down the hill by New Timbers, 
or this tale would never have been told except at a 
coroner's inquest ; but being too busy with the aforesaid 
cigar (" the march of intellect," as Viator once more 
crushingly remarks), he let his team get well on to the 
crown of the hill, just above his change, before he 
attempted to pull up. And what happened when this 
too long-deferred effort failed ? Why, " away they 
went." And where they were going to, except to perdition, 
Viator for some moments was utterly unable to tell. 
For the incompetent one had his reins clubbed by way 
of meeting the emergency, and by reason of his awkward 
pulling and hauling, had the coach first of all in one 
ditch, and then in the other, till the passengers were 
utterly unable to say whether they were on their heads 
or their heels, and momentarily expected to be lying 
ready for burial on their backs. At the very crisis of 
the affair the stables of the runaway team loomed into 
sight, when they stopped of their own accord, in spite, 
no doubt, of the efforts of their driver. On the next stage 
an opportunity of another kind was given to this miser- 
able charioteer for retrieving his lost laurels and pocket- 
ing the half-crowns which the outside passengers had 
determined at the moment not to give him. For the 
next stage was one which required the exercise of a 
little "fanning"; and it was within the bounds of 
reasonable human hope that such an ignoramus with the 
reins might yet be able to use his whip the least bit in the 
world. But, alas ! " Dominie Sampson could not have 
made a more diabolical attempt at hitting a near leader." 
And every time the fellow tried to hit his off-side wheel 
horse, he nearly cut off his off-side passenger's near ear! 
Under which delightful conditions the journey to London 
was done in six hours, the passengers never being out of 
jeopardy the whole time. 



202 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

This sort of romance makes us feel momentarily 
thankful for railway trains, and drivers, who have to pass 
a severe examination, and are not supposed to take 
anything stronger than cold tea. Not however must 
the impression be permitted to remain (in spite of Viator's 




Crmvhurst Grange. 



savage indignation) that all the Brighton coachmen 
were the dangerous dunces which the above experience 
shows one of them to have been. 

On the contrary several among them were of the A I 
class — others not up to this standard quite ; but 
decidedly fair all round. In the latter category was 



THE BRIGHTON ROAD 203 

Sam Goodman, of the Times. Yet it were profanity to 
compare him to the incomparable Mr. Snow, whose per- 
fect ease and elegant attitude on his box in turning the 
Dart out of the Spread Eagle Yard in Gracechurch 
Street was a sight for gods and coachmen. Gray, on 
the Regent, was " fair — inclining to steady," as the 
meteorologists might say ; Ned Russel, when once started 
over London Bridge, not worse than some of his neigh- 
bours. Mr. Steven, of the Age, had the reputation of 
being a good coachman, which is all that Viator will say 
for him, except to wish him success ; but young Cook, 
formerly of the Magnet, but afterwards of the Regulator 
(having changed his coaches, from sickness, at being 
bandied about between Hell and Hackney, as he graphi- 
cally expresses it), young Cook, was not only a first- 
rate coachman but one of the pleasantest fellows to travel 
with that could be met on the road. From this bead- 
roll of distinguished professionals (to make an end of 
coachmen) can the distinguished amateurs of the 
Brighton Road be with any justice excluded ? Certainly 
not ! For the Brighton Road, to keep up its distinctive 
flavour of what I call " Corinthianism," has ever been 
distinguished and fortunate in its choice of aristocratic 
whips. And of these no selection could be complete 
which wanted the names of Sir Vincent Cotton, who 
drove the Age ; of the Marquis of Worcester, father of 
the present Duke of Beaufort, who drove the Beaufort ; 
of the Hon. Fred. Jerningham, a son of Lord Stafford, 
who drove the Brighton Day Mail — who were all 
artists to the tips of their fingers, who never solicited 
fees, and yet pocketed them when offered, with as much 
readiness and relish as could be shown by the poorest 
" knights of the whip." 

And what of the travellers on the Brighton Road in 
the days of its prime ? They are as the sands of the 
sea for multitude, and pass before my mind's eye in a 
long line, beginning with the Regent and ending with 
Tom Cribb — if indeed the prince should be put before 



204 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



the pugilist. Byron was here in 1808 with another 
fighting man, the celebrated gentleman Jackson, and also, 




ir^ 



The White Hart, Lewes. 



I much regret to have to say it, with a young lady who 
rode about with him in male attire, and who remarked 



THE BRIGHTON ROAD 205 

to Lady P , who said, " What a pretty horse 

you are riding," " Yes ; it was gave me by my brother." 
How many times I wonder did the beautiful Mrs. 
Fitzherbert, the only woman that George the Fourth 
ever loved probably, travel from London to her 
lodgings in the Steyne, and from her lodgings in 
the Steyne to London ? Those journeys must have 
been countless, and what heartburnings, what agonies 
of pride broken and hope deferred must have been 
suffered by the way ! Not that Mrs. Fitzherbert was 
by any means the only wounded beauty drawn moth- 
like to the gracious glare eternally effulgent at the 
Pavilion. Perdita Robinson was constantly to be seen 
on the Brighton Road during her brief period of ascend- 
ency — her turn-out faultless, her postillions pictures, her 
luncheon bills at the Dorset Arms, East Grinstead, or 
the White Hart at Godstone Green, worthy of the attent- 
ive consideration of a nation. who had to pay for them. 
But why pursue further the bevy of frail beauty who 
posted to and fro from Brighton in pursuit of the Royal 
George ? It would be a scandalous research not requir- 
ing much consideration. Let us look at another side of 
the picture — a more intellectual side. 

In 1779 — three years that is to say before the Prince 
Regent visited Brighton for the first time — Miss Burney 
(than whom I have found no more entertaining com- 
panion since I first set out on the roads) came here in 
company with Mr., Mrs., Miss, and Miss Susan Thrale. 
She travelled in a coach with four horses ; the servants 
travelled in a chaise, and two men additionally accom- 
panied them on horseback. The procession started from 
Streatham, and took the Reigate and Cuckfield route ; 
and they were obliged to stop for some time at three 
places on the road. Of Reigate Miss Burney has only 
to remark that " it is a very old, half-ruined borough ; " 
and that a high hill leading to it afforded a very fine 
prospect ; after which she passed on to Cuckfield, 
where, instead of at once visiting Cuckfield Park, (which 



206 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

is a most entrancing sixteenth-century house, possessing 
a gloomy park, a family curse, and a general atmosphere 
altogether redolent of Mrs. Radclifife at her darkest), 
Miss Burney contented herself with observing that the 
view of the South Downs from the King's Head or the 
Talbot (where I suppose she was taking tea) was very 
curious and singular. 

The utter lack of feeling displayed by the most 
cultured people of the eighteenth century for the 
domestic architecture of England positively appals. 
I believe that Horace Walpole was the only man living 
who had the faintest natural tendency to the taste — and 
his taste naturally was affected by the vitiated atmosphere 
which prevailed. Here is the second fine house that Miss 
Burney (so far as human nature is concerned, the 
observant of the observant) passes entirely without 
observation. First it is Littlecote on the Bath Road, 
which she fails to perceive,- and now it is Cuckfield Park 
on the Brighton Road. Two points only can be urged 
in excuse of this deplorable exhibition of wall-eyedness 
in one so young. Firstly, that Miss Burney was not by 
nature a romanticist — indeed held them rather in 
contempt — and so was probably watching from the 
landing window a comedy in real life played by two 
post-boys and a chambermaid in the galleried inn's 
backyard ; secondly, that the author of Evelina had not 
enjoyed the advantage possessed by the present genera- 
tion of revelling in the romances of Harrison Ainsworth. 
No ; Miss Burney had no opportunity of reading Rook- 
wood (not that she would have read it if she had had the 
opportunity, I fear) ; and so Cuckfield Park was not 
associated in her mind, as it is in ours, with Dick Turpin 
and all the adventurous, dashing figures that throng the 
pages of Ainsworth's first success. For Cuckfield Park 
is the Rookwood of the romance ; and it is no unde- 
served compliment to its intrepid writer, who with all his 
faults, possessed the truly refreshing capacity for " cutting 
analysis and getting to the story," that his novel has 



THE BRIGHTON ROAD 



207 




i£*»4 



Tht Gossips 



thrown the glamour of an additionally romantic interest 
over an old manor house already instinct with romance. 
At Cuckficld then Miss Burney is disappointing ; but 



208 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

when she gets to Brighton — which she did on this 
occasion at about nine o'clock in the evening — she is in 
her element. Then she becomes rich — rich in description, 
humour, observation, analysis, rich in everything in 
short which can help to bring the terminus of the 
Brighton Road in 1779 vividly before our eyes. I do 
not think that I can do better than follow her for a day 
or two through the pages of the diary which so racily 
describes this visit. 

The day then after her arrival, Miss Burney dined at 
the Ship Tavern — (now known as the Old Ship, by 
actors, authors, managers, and other distressed un- 
fortunates, jaded with their labours and in search of 
change between the Saturday and the Monday). Not 
that Miss Burney dined in such congenial company. 
Far from it. She dined at the officers' mess — she forgets 
to say of what regiment, to which she had been specially 
invited by the major and captain. The next morning 
there arrived at Mrs. Thrale's house, which was situated 
in West Street, a melancholy and typical personage, who 
was destined to inflict upon Miss Burney several very 
bad quarters of an hour. This was one Dr. Dewlap. 
The wretched man had written a tragedy, and had also 
had it accepted. His attitude towards men and things 
may therefore be imagined ; and was I need hardly say 
carefully noted by Miss Burney, who had herself written 
a comedy — accepted also. But Dr. Dewlap seems to 
have been a very wicked specimen of the budding 
dramatic author. He was commonly of course naturally 
grave, silent, and absent ; yet when any subject with 
which he was conversant had once been begun, he 
worked it threadbare : and, wretch that he was, seemed 
hardly to know when all was over ; or, what is more 
remarkable, whether anything had passed. He was 
thinking of his tragedy, no doubt. 

Not the least noxious point about him was that his 
appearance was " smug and reserved." He soon however 
gave Mrs. Thrale his play to read. A deed which drove 



THE BRIGHTON ROAD 



209 



Miss Burney (with a keen perception of what was in 
store for her too) out for a walk on the Parade. Here 
she found some soldiers mustering. And in what state ? 
It pains me to say that they were half intoxicated, and 




Quaint Signs. 

laughed so violently as Miss Burney passed by them, 
that they could hardly stand upright. The wind, too, to 
make matters worse, was extremely high, blew Miss 
Burney's gown about abominably, and played the deuce 
with her bonnet. And the merry light infantry laughed 

P 



210 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

the more. And " Captain Fuller's " embarrassed desire 
to keep order, made Miss Burney laugh as much. 

There is an exterior of Brighton in 1779 ! But an 
interior equally graphic is also to hand. It is connected 
with Dewlap the inevitable. On one occasion I read 
(there is an end to everything) an accursed divergence of 




Tht Chequers, Mansfield. 



occupation called away all the gentlemen from Miss 
Burney' s society, and precipitated the deeply dreaded 
hour. Dr. Dewlap remained. He seated himself next 
to the fair diarist. He began to question her about his 
tragedy — which by this time he had given her too to 
read. But had Miss Burney read it ? That is the ques- 



THE BRIGHTON ROAD 211 

tion. I doubt it extremely. Hear what the lady herself 
says — 

" I soon said all I wanted to say upon the subject," she 
writes. " And soon after a great deal more ; but not 
soon after was he satisfied. He returned to the same 
thing a million of times, till I almost fell asleep with the 
sound of the same words." 

To leave \he fair authoress of Evelina for ever, with 
many thanks for her assistance so far (and I hope that 
these thanks may reach her wherever she may now 
chance to be studying character, and regretting eternally 




Sackvillt Colltge. 



her desertion of literature for a servile attendance on a 
hum-drum court) ; three other travellers on the Brighton 
Road — and immortal travellers too, as long as English 
is read — present themselves for notice. 

About the time then when the air was full of the 
rumours which culminated in Waterloo, Captain Crawley, 
Captain Osborne, and Mr. Jos Sedley, " were enjoying 
that beautiful prospect of bow windows on the one side, 
and blue sea on the other, which Brighton affords to the 
traveller." Who can forget the incident ? Who does 
not remember the sublime and here first recorded attempt 
of the immortal Jos to catch the warlike spirit of the 

P 2 



212 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

times by a subtle alteration of costume ? Jos, brilliant 
in under waistcoats, sporting a military frock coat, 
clinking his boot spurs, swaggering prodigiously and 
shooting death glances at all the servant girls who were 
worthy to be slain ! 

" ' What shall we do, boys, till the ladies return ? ' he 
asked. The ladies were out to Rottingdean in his 
carriage on a drive. 

" ' Let's have a game of billiards,' one of his friends 
said — the tall one with the lacquered moustachios. 

" ' No, dammy ; no, Captain,' Jos replied, rather 
alarmed. ' No billiards to-day, Crawley, my boy — 
yesterday was enough.' " 

And then, after various suggestions for killing time, 
including Jos's, " ' to have some jellies at Dutton's and 
kill the gal behind the counter — devilish fine gal at 
Dutton's ' " — the determination was come to, as is 
generally known, to go and see the Lightning " come in " 
— and the advice prevailing over billiards and jelly, the 
trio turned towards the coach-office. 

It would be impossible to leave Brighton and 
Thackeray behind us, without recalling another incident 
detailed by the author of the Four Georges, this time an 
historical one, which has to do with a wicked old celebrity, 
once a well-known figure on the Steyne — with posting, 
and with the august personage who called posting and 
coaching to Brighton into fashion — nay, even into life. 
" In Gilray's caricatures," I quote from the Four Georges, 
" there figures a great nobleman called ' Jockey of 
Norfolk ' in his time, and celebrated for his table exploits. 
He had quarrelled with the Prince, like the rest of the 
Whigs, but a sort of reconciliation had taken place ; 
and now being a very old man, the Prince invited him 
to dine and sleep at the Pavilion, and the old duke drove 
over from his castle of Arundel, with his famous equipage 
of gray horses, still remembered in Sussex." 

A pleasant Bacchanalian scene is then enacted, it will 
be remembered, which began by everybody challenging 



THE BRIGHTON ROAD 



213 



the old duke to drink (who, not forgetful of his reputa- 
tion, did not decline the honour), and ended by the first 




Taking up the Mails. 



gentleman in Europe proposing bumpers of brandy. 
Too proud to brook defeat in his especial line of art 



214 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

the old duke's intrepidity did not fail him even here. 
He drank. Then finding that his head was failing him 
he remarked that he had had enough of such hospitality, 
and would go home. 

" The carriage was called and came, but in the half- 
hour's interval the liquor had proved too potent for the 
old man ; his host's generous purpose was answered, 
and the duke's old gray head lay stupefied upon the 
table. Nevertheless, when the post-chaise was an- 
nounced he staggered to it as well as he could, and 
stumbling in, bade the postillions drive to Arundel. 
They drove him for half-an-hour round and round the 
Pavilion lawn ; the poor old man fancied he was going 
home. When he awoke that morning he was in bed at 
the Prince's hideous house at Brighton. You may see 
the place now for sixpence ; they have fiddlers there 
every day, and sometimes buffoons and mountebanks 
hire the riding-house, and do their tricks and tumbling 
there. The trees are still there, and the gravel walks 
round which the poor old sinner was trotted. I can 
fancy the flushed faces of the royal princes as they 
support themselves at the portico pillars — and look on 
at old Norfolk's disgrace ; but I can't fancy how the man 
who perpetrated it continued to be called a gentleman." 

It certainly is a hard nut to crack. But the above 
graceful scene of conviviality at Brighton reminds me 
that I have yet to make mention of the houses of entertain- 
ment on the Brighton Road. Horace Walpole, it will 
be remembered, said, in 1749, that there were no inns 
in Sussex. But here I fear Horace pulled the long bow 
of the disappointed tourist — for the guide-books of the 
old coaching days tell a different tale. Amongst others 
the following were well-known houses — of varying 
degrees of merit, no doubt, and situated on different 
routes. 

At Croydon — the Crown ; at Godstone Green — the 
White Hart : at East Grinstead — the Dorset Arms : at 
Uckfield — the Maiden's Head ; at Reigate — the Swan ; 



THE BRIGHTON ROAD 



215 



at Hickstead — the Castle ; at Cuckfield — the King's 
Head and the Talbot. 

Out of these, two houses are in my opinion specially 
worthy of mention, namely — the White Hart at God- 
stone Green, and the Dorset Arms at East Grinstead ; 
not only because the houses arc fine in themselves, but 
because, thanks no doubt in a great measure to the in- 
terest taken by their landlords in their past history, 




■pffe 

Tht Dorset Arms, East Grinstead- 

something of that rare romance of the roads hangs about 
them still. The inn at East Grinstead, which is an un- 
usually fine specimen of its class, used formerly to be 
called the Cat — but why it was so called it will not be 
well too particularly to inquire — in fact, as Mr. Silas 
Wegg would have said, " In Mrs. Boffin's presence, sir, 
we had better drop it." A token however was struck 
off to perpetuate this title, which I have been shown 
through the courtesy of Mr- Tracy, the landlord of the 



2i6 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

house ; and a very rare and curious token it is, showing 
" The Cat " — the name of the town, and inn. 

All distinguished travellers on the Brighton Road 
pulled up as a matter of course at the Dorset Arms. 
Amongst those whose names have been handed down as 
habitual visitors, was Lord Liverpool, who always stayed 
at the Dorset Arms when on his way to visit the 
Harcourt seat near Buxted, and who has left a record of 
his impatience at dawdling waiters and dinners not 
served up to the minute ; " Liverpool's in a hurry " even 
now being remembered in the place. Another constant 
guest was Lord Seymour, who died, I believe, in 1837 — 
mean, I am sorry to say, as regards his expenses ; and 
yet not mean either one way, for if he didn't eat and 
drink much, he possessed a passion for illumination 
which must have produced some respectable items in 
the bill — thirty wax candles or more burning in his bed- 
room all night. Spencer Perceval too, the Prime Minister 
(remarkable for great ability and for having been shot in 
the lobby of the House of Commons in 18 12 by John 
Bellingham), must have been a familiar figure at the 
Dorset Arms, for the House from which he was married 
in 1790 to Miss Jane Wilson stands just at the bottom 
of the Dorset Arms' garden. 

At nine miles three furlongs up the London Road, 
towards London, stands the other inn that I have par- 
ticularly mentioned — the White Hart, now called the 
Clayton Arms, at Godstone Green. The White Hart 
claims to be a very old house. Mr. Churchill, the pro- 
prietor, who has had it for twenty-two years, and who 
takes a natural and gratifying pride in its history, tells 
me that it was an inn in Richard the Second's time, 
whose badge was a white hart couchant, as heralds may 
know. The White Hart was open timbered then, and had 
quarried windows. The gable ends were added in 
Elizabeth's time. In the absence of documentary 
evidence it requires but a small stretch of the imagination 
to picture the long crowd of all ranks, kings, queens, 



THE BRIGHTON ROAD 



217 



soldiers, statesmen, conspirators, coachmen, and high- 
waymen, who must have passed the portals of so vener- 
able a place of entertainment as this, in the lapse of six 
centuries. A tradition however which associates one 
royalty with the White Hart is noticeable ; not only 
from the singularity of the association, but because the 




-C 



The Clayton A rms, Godstont. 



particular association in question is to me a distinctive 
feature in the history of the Brighton Road. 

It is said then that in 181 5 the Regent, the Czar of 
Russia, and many royal visitors stayed at the inn on 
their way to Blindley Heath, to be present at the fight 
for the championship of England. Having lost my 



2tS COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

Fistiana, I am unable to verify the date of this fight, or 
to name the combatants ; but people who know their 
subject, in an age when boxing may be said to be revived, 
will not need me to tell them that Blindley Heath, 
which is about four miles from Godstone Green, was one 
of the most popular and celebrated of prize-fighting 
rendezvous. Here, to quote one example : On the 12th 
of June, 1821, Hickman, the gas-light man, and Oliver, 
fought ten rounds in thirteen minutes. Not that 
Blindley Heath is the only place in the neighbourhood 
celebrated for this classic amusement. Within a few 
miles are Copthall Common, where on December 10th, 
1 8 10, Cribb fought and beat Molineaux, the black, for 
the first time ; and Crawley Down, which has witnessed 
more mills than I have time or memory to catalogue. 

The processions from town to these fights however 
afford too remarkable an illustration of contemporary 
manners for me to pass over so lightly : an illustration 
of manners continually to be studied in this neighbour- 
hood on the Brighton Road. And I think that an ex- 
tract from the classic authority will give a better idea 
than I can of the scenes to be witnessed on the road 
immediately before a celebrated "mill." 
. " The Fancy were all upon the alert soon after break- 
fast " (I quote from Boxiancis description of the Grand 
Pugilistic combat between Randall and Martin, at 
Crawley Down, thirty miles from London, on Tuesday, 
May 4, 1 8 19) "on the Monday, to ascertain the seat of 
action ; and as soon as the important whisper had gone 
forth, that Crawley Down was likely to be the place, 
the toddlers were off in a twinkling. The gigs were 
soon brushed up, the prads harnessed, and the boys 
who intended to enjoy themselves on the road were in 
motion. Between the hours of two and three o'clock in 
the afternoon upwards of a hundred gigs were counted 
passing through Croydon. The Bonifaces chuckled 
again with delight, and screwing was the order of the 
day. Long before eight o'clock' in the evening every 



THE BRIGHTON ROAD 



219 




- 

The "Judges' Houses, East Grituttad. 



bed belonging to the inns and public-houses in God- 
stone, East Grinstead, Rcigate, Bletchingley, &c., were 
doubly, and some trebly occupied. 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



" Five and seven shillings were charged for the stand 
of a horse in any wretched hut. But those customers 
who were fly to all the tricks and fancies of life, and 
who would not be nailed at any price, preferred going to 
roost in a barn ; while others possessing rather more 




The Grange, Lewes 



The Sign of the Swan, Southerner. 



gaiety y and who set sleep at defiance, blowed a cloud over 
some heavy wet, devouring the rich points of a flash 
ckaunt; and thought no more of time hanging heavily 
than they did of the classics. Chaunting and swiping 



THE BRIGHTON ROAD 221 

till many of the young sprigs dropped off their perches ; 
while the ould ones felt the influence of the dustman, and 
were glad to drop their nobs to obtain forty winks. 
Those persons whose blunt enabled them to procure beds, 
could not obtain any sleep, for carriages of every de- 
scription were passing through the above towns all 
night. Things passed on in this manner till daylight 
began to peep. Then the swells in their barouches and 
four, and the swift trotting fanciers, all hurried from the 
metropolis, and the road exhibited the bustle of the 
primest day of Epsom Races. The brilliants also left 
Brighton and Worthing at about the same period, and 
thus were the roads thronged in every direction. The 
weather at length cleared up, and by twelve o'clock the 
amphitheatre on Crawley Down had a noble effect, and 
thousands of persons were assembled at the above spot. 
It is supposed if the carriages had all been placed in 
one line they would have reached from London to 
Crawley. The amateurs were of the highest distinction, 
and several noblemen and foreigners of rank were upon 
the ground." 

Regent and emperor putting up at a wayside inn to 
witness a fight for the championship ! Young sprigs 
chaunting and swiping till they dropped off their 
perches ! The swells in their barouches and four hurrying 
from the metropolis ! The noblemen and foreigners of 
rank crowding round the twenty-four foot ring ! What can 
give us a better idea of the Brighton Road in its prime 
than these facts ? What paint more vividly what I call 
its M Regency flavour," its slang, its coarseness, its 
virility — in a word, its " Corinthianism " ? 




St. John's Hospital, Canterbury. 



V.— THE DOVER ROAD 

SUCH rich crowds of historical figures throng the long 
reaches of the Dover Road that one really hardly knows 
where to make a beginning and where to make an end 
with them. Indeed, when I think of the record of this 
seventy-one miles, one long, confused, grotesque pro- 
cession of all ages, and of all periods of English history, 
files before me. I see as many sights as Tilburina docs 
in the Critic, and a few more. Kings returning from 
conquest. One king returning from exile. Many 
queens on their way to weddings — (" Unfortunate 
chiefly, I regret to say," as Mr. Pecksniff might have 
remarked) — one queen on her way to a wedding, which, 
fortunately for her, can hardly be said to have completely 
come off ; grave archbishops tremulously proceeding to 
installation ; our earliest dramatic genius on his way to 
London, glory, and a violent death, his " unbowed, bright, 



THE DOVER ROAD 223 

insubmissive head," already full of Faust. I see too 
another English man of letters as immortal as Marlowe, 
with keen, kindly eyes, overlooking from Gad's Hill the 
dusty track along which he, and so many of his crea- 
tions, travelled ; and the latest of the ingenious race of 
footpads at his adroit business on Blackheath ; and one 
of the last of the old coachmen (with whom I have had 
the honour of shaking hands), calm in the emergency 
of " chain snapped and coach running on wheelers on a 
frosty morning," descending the Dartford side of 
Shooter's Hill. 

Perhaps it may be thought that it would be well for 
me, with such material in hand, to begin at the beginning. 
But the beginning of the history of the Dover Road, I 
fear, would be the beginning of the history of the Watling 
Street — for the two terms are in a large measure identical 
— and this would lead me into a long dissertation on 
chariot wheels suddenly flying off, to the intense discom- 
fiture of centurions ; to details concerning the stern 
tramp of the legions ; to the heart-quaking sound of 
" Consul Romanus," according to De Quincey ; and to 
other classic items, foreign, even in my extended view, 
to gossip about the great coaching roads of England. 

And so I think that (this being an age in which many 
people talk of Chaucer without having read him) I can- 
not do better than start from the Old Tabard in South- 
wark — as it stood in Edward the Third's time — in 
the company of a certain body of pilgrims who set out 
thence for Canterbury on a certain May morning. In 
the company, to wit, of a " verray parfight gentil 
knight," in cassock and coat of mail ; his curly-headed 
squire ; the brown-faced yeoman bow in hand ; the abbot, 
a mighty hunter from his youth up ; the friar, mediaevally 
typical of our street singers, abhorred by literary men ; 
the prioress, possessed of a charming French lisp, and 
having Amor vincit omnia characteristically graven upon 
her brooch ; in the company too (in case the Tabard 
whisky — malmsey, I mean — should prove cumulative in 



--1 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



its effects) of a doctor of physic, who had been making 
hay while the sun shone and the plague was rampant ; 
in the company, lastly, of the clerk from Oxford, whom 
much study had made — not mad — but as lean and 
leaden-eyed as Eugene Aram ever was. 

Not that I intend to travel with this famed company 
all the way to Canterbury. They did not hurry them- 
selves enough ; sat too long telling discursive stories by 




The Old Tabard, Southward. 



the way-side, which may be read to advantage in editions 
carefully prepared for ladies' colleges and the young. 
And here I may perhaps remark with advantage — to 
myself (in case it may appear that I am on history bent 
rather than on coaching) — that the purely coaching 
record of the Dover Road is a thing only to be touched 
on briefly. For in point of fact it is " thin," as dra- 
matic critics would say, in the extreme. The following 



THE DOVER ROAD 225 

copy of a time bill marks probably the beginning of 
its development. 

"LONDON EVENING POST. March 28. 1751. 
"A Stage Coach 

" WILL SET OUT 

" For Dover every Wednesday and Friday from Christopher Shaws the 
Golden Cross at four in the morning to go over Westminster Bridge to 
Rochester to dinner to Canterbury at night and to Dover the next morning 
early ; will take up passengers for 

" Rochester, Sittingbourne, Ospringe, and Canterbury — and returns on 
Tuesdays and Thursdays. 

fThos : Hartcup. 

Robt : Legeyt. 

Richd : Stradwick. 

Cath : Pordage." 



Mi 



And I wish the four could have got up some better 
grammar and punctuation amongst them. 

To advance from this barbaric attempt of our ancestors 
to induce credulous people to go to Dover, the fastest 
coach which ran on this road in the golden age of 
coaching was Chaplin's Tally-ho, which was driven by 
Clements — the fine old coachman whom I have already 
mentioned, and whose interesting personal experiences 
given to myself I shall deal with when I get to Canter- 
bury, where he lives. The Tally-ho used to run from 
the Spread Eagle in Gracechurch Street to Sittingbourne 
— forty miles — every day, including Sunday, and (as Mr. 
Stanley Harris tells all who will learn how their fore- 
fathers travelled in The Coaching Age) was largely 
patronized by the Kentish farmers, who could leave 
their homes at nve or six o'clock on Sunday afternoon, 
get their night's rest — acrobatic, somewhat, I fear — and 
be on the spot for the early markets in London. 

To get along on our way to Rochester the Dover 
Road (which is measured from the Surrey side of London 
Bridge) after going through New Cross, where in coaching 
days there was a turnpike, runs into Deptford, where 



226 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



there has been some history. For here, to begin with, 
in 1 58 1, Elizabeth went on board Drake's ship, the 
Golden Hind, in which that greatest of English seamen 
had circumnavigated the globe. On board the Golden Hind 
the queen dined, and after dinner knighted the captain. 




The Toilet. 

I read that the ship was afterwards laid up in a yard 
here, and converted into a sort of dining-house for 
London visitors ; in which case all I can say is that I 
hope that they recollected in what sort of sanctuary of 
heroism they were dining and drank the health reverently 
of the great man who made English commerce possible, 
and so, indirectly, enabled them to pay the bill. 

Eleven years after Elizabeth had dined at Deptford 
the greatest perhaps of our Elizabethan dramatists was 



THE DOVER ROAD 



227 



killed here in a tavern brawl. The death of Christopher 
Marlowe at the age of thirty makes most of us wonder 
with Mr. Matthew Arnold at the prodigal way in which 
nature plays with the lives of the most gifted of her sons. 
As the author of Doctor Faustus however had permitted 
himself the licence of certain criticism quite uncalled for 
and extremely distasteful to the clergy, our view of his 
premature cutting off was not shared by his contem- 
poraries. Beard, on the contrary, in his Theatre of God's 




Hall Place, Bexlty. 

Judgments, thus urbanely comments on Marlowe's death 
from his own dagger. " But see what a hooke the Lord 
put in the Nostrils of this barking dogge ; " an effort in 
criticism which makes us hope that there are such things 
as literary amenities among us after all. 

The poet's birth at Canterbury ; his education there 
at the King's School, gives him to the Dover Road as 
perhaps its brightest ornament. When we are tired, it 
may be, of erecting tablets to third-class authors (English 
and others), adorned with inscriptions which for unintelli- 

Q 2 



228 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

gibility would not misbecome the tomb of Cheops, it 
may occur to us that one of the greatest of our poets is 
unrepresented in our pedantic Pantheon. Till which 
time comes Mr. Swinburne's fine eulogy will take the 
place of a bad statue. " This poet," he writes, " a poor 
scholar of humblest parentage lived to perfect the ex- 
quisite metre invented for narrative by Chaucer, giving 
it (to my ear at least) more of weight and depth, 
of force and fulness, than its founder had to give ; he 
invented the highest and hardest form of English verse, 
the only instrument since found possible for our tragic 
or epic poetry ; he created the modern tragic drama ; 
and at the age of thirty he went 

" ' Where Orpheus and where Homer are.' 

" Surely there are not more than two or three names 
in any literature which can be set above the poets of 
whom this is the least that can in simple truth be said. 
There is no record extant of his living likeness ; if his 
country should ever bear men worthy to raise a statue 
or monument to his memory, he should stand before 
them with the head and eyes of an Apollo, looking 
homeward from earth into the sun : a face and figure, in 
the poet's own great phrase, 

" ' Like his desire, lift upward and divine.' " 

To leave Marlowe for a while — and before leaving 
Deptford — it may not misbecome me to remark for the 
benefit of those who still read Scott in an age which has 
turned aside after brazen images with feet of clay — 
that at Sayes Court — long since pulled down — are laid 
some of the most brilliant scenes in Kenilworth. It is 
here that Blount and Raleigh first appear in the pages 
of perhaps the finest historical novel in the world ; it is 
here that Tressilian, milksoppy to the verge of nausea 
even for one of Scott's heroes, brings Wayland Smith to 
cure Sussex of Leicester's broth ; it is to Sayes Court 



THE DOVER ROAD 



229 



that Elizabeth herself comes when she is least expected, 
finds it watched like a beleaguered fort, and makes a 
rapid exit, "having brought confusion along with her, 
and leaving doubt and apprehension behind." 

I confess that it does me good when in the course of 
these disjointed rambles along the great roads of England 
I can find some spot haunted by the, to me, charmed 
figures which throng the pages of the Waverley Novels. 
Hitherto I have not reaped much of a harvest of joy in 
this direction, it must be confessed ; but Deptford has 




■ -"■* 



Cobham Hall, Rochttttr. 



given me my first opportunity ; and the Dover Road, a 
little further on, will give me my second ; with which 
remark I think I may leave Deptford altogether, lament- 
ing that all that can be seen of Sayes Court is now a 
parish workhouse which stands on its site ; and marvel- 
ling at the imperial relaxation of Peter the Great who 
stayed here in 1698 (at the Court, not at the workhouse), 
and who was wont to unbend a mind wearied with ship- 
building, by being driven through the world-famous 
hedges of the garden in a wheelbarrow. 



230 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 




A Clandestine Interview. 



THE DOVER ROAD 231 

Immediately beyond Deptford we come to Blackheath, 
seven miles from London Bridge, famous in these days 
for football matches, and for villas built for credulous 
people simple enough to believe in fine air as a remedy 
for that mysterious disease which, to quote the terrific 
advertisement, is " stealing upon us all." But the villas, 
I regret to say, in which these deluded persons seek for 
that health which passeth understanding, and can only 
be procured at the vendors of patent medicines, are by 
no means equal to the aristocratic residences for which 
Blackheath was once famous. The manners of their 
inhabitants are however much improved. At least I 
hope so. For Montague House, now pulled down, did 
not, I apprehend, shine conspicuously in this desirable 
respect. The reverse indeed was the case ; Montague 
House having been, in the days I speak of, the residence 
of the unfortunate Queen Caroline, and the scene of the 
delicate investigation — which reminds me that I am on 
delicate ground. From the same house that delightful 
combination of the devil and the three graces, my Lord 
Chesterfield, wrote some of those amazing letters to his 
son. At Blackheath also lived, at intervals, the con- 
queror of Quebec, and from his villa here his remains 
were carried to Greenwich for burial. 

Besides a queen devoted to junketings, a letter-writing 
father, bent on directing his son to the deuce, and a 
great warrior, rebellion has in the good old days (when 
people who wanted a purse simply took one on the 
nearest common, without starting a subscription in the 
newspapers) — rebellion has raised its head on this 
celebrated spot ; and it raised its head in the person 
of Wat Tyler, who was here in 1381 at the head of one 
hundred thousand other heads (which was wise of him 
seeing that he had previously cracked a poll-tax collector's 
head at Dartford, after drinking too much ale, I suppose, 
at the celebrated Bull Inn). Another rebel was here, at 
Blackheath, in 1497. Lord Audley to wit, who went 
through the somewhat aimless exercise of bringing 



232 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



troops all the way from Cornwall, pitching their tents, 
and immediately afterwards suffering defeat at the hands 
of Henry the Seventh. 

Here we have found history enough in seven short 
miles from London — and yet not half the history 
which can be directly associated with Blackheath. For 
this celebrated spot occupied in the annals of England 
much the same sort of position apparently as Rotten 




«C. ~* 



The Leather Bottle, Cobham. 

Row occupies in the annals of contemporary fashion. 
It was the place where kings and ministers met casually 
on their way to or from London, and babbled of the 
weather, the price of corn, the latest hanging, the odds 
on the next bear-fight, the state of the unemployed, or 
any other kindred subject which might suggest itself to 
mediaeval brains, in an open space, where it was not too 
windy. Here then, to notice a few of such meetings, in 



THE DOVER ROAD 233 

1400 Henry the Fourth met Manuel, Emperor of Con- 
stantinople, who came to ask for aid against the Sultan 
Bajazet ; and sixteen years later the Emperor Sigismund 
was received here and conducted in state to Lambeth. 
Henry the Fifth, after one long triumphal procession the 
whole way from Dover, was met here on Blackheath by 
the mayor and five hundred citizens of London, and 
hailed Victor of Agincourt. The mayor and aldermen 
had " got them all on " on this occasion (I refer to 
their scarlet robes and red and white hoods), and 
were doubtless prepared, with the help of conduits 
running wine, pursuivants-at-arms, cloth of gold, and 
emblazoned trappings, to give the conquering hero the 
reception he deserved. But Henry on this occasion 
seems to have borne his honours with exemplary 
modesty ; and whether he was surfeited by the sweets of 
a triumph which had already lasted sixty-four miles, or 
whether he was bilious from the Channel passage and a 
long ride on horseback, he nipped all the worthy mayor's 
preparations in the bud. In point of fact, according to 
Holinshed, " the king, like a grave and sober personage, 
and as one remembering from Whom all victories are 
sent, seemed little to regard such vaine pompe and shews 
as were in triumphant sort devised for his welcoming 
home from so prosperous a journie ; insomuch that he 
would not suffer his helmet to be carried before him, 
whereby might have appeared to the people the blowes and 
dints that were to be seene in the same ; neither would 
he suffer any ditties to be made and sung by minstrels 
of his glorious victorie, for that he would have the praise 
and thanks altogether given to God." A pious decision, 
but one which must have been extremely unsatisfactory 
to town councillors who had launched forth in the way of 
dress and decorations, and to the thousands of Londoners 
who had flocked out to Blackheath to see the show. 

The next royalty I find on Blackheath is Henry the 
Eighth, whose name is constantly cropping up in Kent 
and Sussex, and curiously enough, generally in connec- 



234 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

tion with one of his six wives whose appearance he from 
the first particularly abhorred. I refer to Anne of 
Cleves, whose sad fate should be a lasting warning to 
young ladies about to marry, of the danger of flattering 
portraits. It was here on Blackhcath that the already 
muchly married king publicly received his fourth wife, 
with all due decency and decorum, having already made 
up his royal mind to put her away privately. For Henry 
on this occasion did not play fair ; and though he pre- 
tended to Anne of Cleves herself that it was at this 
meeting on Blackheath that he had first seen her — in 
saying so, he said that which was not ; for he had already 
privately inspected her at the Crown Inn at Rochester. 
It was on this occasion, it may be remembered, that the 
bluff Tudor gave way to a regrettable license of speech 
at first sight of the goods the gods had provided for him, 
and said many things unfit for publication ; which shocked 
the onlookers, and made Cromwell put his hands to his 
head to feel if it was still on his shoulders. 

It was not there long after. The match-maker ex- 
piated his unfortunate choice on Tower Hill ; and Anne 
of Cleves was content to forego the dubious joys of 
married life for the possession of the several manors in 
Kent and Sussex that her grateful late lord bestowed up- 
on her. The number of these manors exceeds belief, and 
at the same time gracefully gauges Henry's conception 
of the magnitude of the matrimonial peril past. Indeed, 
it seems to me that the king's brain must have been 
quite turned with delight at the retiring attitude of the 
Flanders lady ; and that whenever he had nothing 
villainous on hand, and was disinclined for tennis, he 
gave Anne of Cleves a manor or two simply to while 
away the time. 

But though on either of these great occasions that I 
have named, Blackheath must have been a sight worth 
seeing, it was in 1660 no doubt that the grandest of its 
historical pageants was to be seen : when the long reac- 
tion against Puritanism had suddenly triumphed, and all 



THE DOVER ROAD 235 

England went mad on a May morning at the Restoration 
of her exiled king ; when through sixty-one miles as it 
were of conduits running wine, triumphal arches, gabled 
streets hung with tapestry — through battalions of citizens 
in various bands, some arrayed in coats of black velvet 
with gold chains, some in military suits of cloth of gold or 
silver — Charles, who had slept at Rochester the night 
before, rode on to Blackeath between his brothers, the 
Dukes of York and Gloucester. 

And on Blackheath he saw on one side the stern array 
of the great army which he had seen last (and seen too 
much of) at Worcester ; and on the other, according to 
Walter Scott, a very favourite family group, well known 
to readers of the Waverley Novels. In point of fact, 
Sir Henry Lee, of Ditchley, arrived at the uttermost 
limits of a noble old age, "having a complacent smile 
on his face and a tear swelling to his eye, as he saw 
the banners wave on in interminable succession, and 
heard the multitude shouting the long-silenced accla- 
mation, ' God save King Charles ! ' " And round the 
old man's chair stood a delightful group, it will be re- 
membered, of all the pleasant characters of Woodstock 
— Colonel Everard and Alice, now his wife ; Joceline 
Joliffe, of quarter-staff renown, and Mrs. Joceline Joliffe, 
ne'e Phoebe ; then Wildrake too, the incomparable of 
Squattlesea Mere, in the moist county of Lincoln, much 
given to singing " Rub-a-dub," and requesting the moon 
and stars to catch his hat. This morning he blazes in 
splendid apparel, but his eyes, I regret to say, have been 
washed with only a single cup of canary. And last, but 
not least, Beavis, the wolf-hound, dim also as to his eyes, 
stiff as to his joints, a ruin of his former self, but having 
lost none of his instinctive fondness for his master. 

It will be remembered that when Charles from the 
midst of a maze of pursuivants and trumpeters, and 
plumes and cloth of gold, and waving standards and 
swords gleaming in the sunlight, saw this group, he 
had the tact to remember it, the urbanity to dismount, 



236 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



prevent Sir Henry Lee from rising, and ask for his 
blessing. Having duly received which, the king went 
on to London, and his very faithful servant, having 
seen the desire of his eyes, was gathered to his fathers. 
After Blackheath and Scott (so literary is this part 
of the Dover Road) comes Shooter's Hill and Dickens. 
And Dickens is the veritable genius of the road. His 
memory burns by the way — as all but the wicked man 
who has not read Pickzvick and David Copperfield will 




Walking up the Hill. 

remember — and indeed A Tale of Two Cities. For in the 
second chapter of that wonderful book the very spirit of 
the Dover Road in George the Third's time is caught as 
if by magic. Who (having eyes) cannot see " the Dover 
Road on a Friday night late in November in the year of 
our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five 
— the Dover Road, lying beyond the Dover Mail, as it 
lumbered up Shooter's Hill " ? The coachman (whose 
name was Tom) towelling the tired horses — especially 



THE DOVER ROAD 237 

the near leader, much given it will be remembered to 
shaking its head and everything upon it, as it were 
denying that the coach could be got up the hill at all. 
The passengers wrapped up in rugs and in a mortal 
distrust of each other, trudge through the slush by the 
coach's side — Mr. Jarvis Lorry, of Telson's bank, among 
them. A steaming mist rises out of all the hollows ; 
the hour is " ten minutes, good, past Eleven " — learning 
which the coachman remarks, " My blood ! " and then, 
" Tst ! Yah ! Get on with you ! " The last burst carries 
the Mail to the top of the Hill. Then comes some dia- 
logue often heard on the old coaching roads when George 
the Third was king. The passengers are in the act of 
re-entering the coach. 

" ' Tst ! Joe ! ' cried the coachman in a warning voice, 
looking down from his box. 

" What do you say, Tom ? ' 

" They both listened. 

" ' I say a horse at a canter coming up, Joe.' 

" ' I say a horse at a gallop, Tom,' returned the guard, 
leaving his hold of the door, and mounting nimbly to 
his seat. ' Gentlemen, in the king's name all of you.' 
With this hurried adjuration, he cocked his blunderbuss, 
and stood on the defensive." 

Then to the Dover Mail asitstoodonthe top of Shooter's 
Hill entered Mr. Jerry Cruncher ; remarkable for his 
leaning towards pursuits of an agricultural character, 
carried on in churchyards at one in -the morning with the 
assistance of a sack, a crowbar of convenient size, a rope 
and chain, and other fishing tackle of that nature ; re- 
markable also, on his domestic side, for a wife much 
given to flopping herself down and praying that the 
bread and butter might be snatched out of the mouth of 
her only child. Mr. Cruncher was not on a body-snatch- 
ing expedition on this occasion however ; though Mr. 
Lorry's answer " Recalled to life " — a verbal answer to 
the letter of which Jerry was bearer — struck him as 
ominous decidedly. 



238 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

Who does not remember all these things ? Who has 
not read them again and again ? I declare that I think 
this second chapter of A Tale of Two Cities a picture of 
the old coaching days more perfect than any that has 
been painted. Every detail is mere in three pages. 
Every colour, every suggestion, from " the mildewy inside 
of the old Mail, with its damp and dirty straw, its dis- 
agreeable smell, and its obscurity," to the guard's arm- 
chest where the blunderbuss lay recondite ; to that smaller 
chest too in which there were a few smith's tools, a couple 
of torches, and a tinder-box. " For he was furnished 
with such completeness that if the coach lamps had been 
blown and stormed out, which did occasionally happen, 
he had only to shut himself up inside, keep the flint and 
steel sparks well off the straw, and get a light with toler- 
able safety and ease (if he were lucky) in five minutes." 
I can see the passengers hiding their watches and purses 
in their boots (still fearful that the messenger who had 
stopped the Mail was a highwayman), their hearts beat- 
ing loud enough to be heard, and the panting of the 
horses communicating a tremulous motion to the coach 
— as if it too were in a state of agitation. Which fancied 
peril passed — if we had been in the Dover Mail on that 
memorable night with Mr. Jarvis Lorry — we should have 
probably taken our watches gradually out of our boots 
as we passed Welling, Bexley Heath, and Crayford, in 
order that on arrival at the Bull Inn at Dartford, we might 
walk to the bar comfortably to take a drink. 

And the Bull at Dartford looks, at the present time of 
speaking, much as it must have done to the passengers 
by the Dover Mail in 1775. It is indeed one of the finest 
inns on the Dover Road. Here at the Bull at Dartford 
we have a galleried courtyard (not however rendered 
more interesting to artistic eyes by the addition of a 
glass roof, under which local corndcalers try to get the 
best of a bargain). We have also the low archway 
decorated with game suspended, the kitchen on one side, 
the bar on the other, and a general atmosphere of de- 



THE DOVER ROAD 



239 



liberate travelling and sleepy comfort. Also a reminis- 
cence of antiquity — for the Bull, according to local 
legend and Mr. Harrison Ainsworth, was a flourishing 
concern five centuries ago. In front of the old house the 
impetuous Wat Tyler began his historical record in the 
fifth year of Richard the Second by incontestably de- 
monstrating to an incredulous crowd that the local poll- 




Th4 Bull, Dartford. 



tax collector had brains. In truth he spread them coram 
populo upon the Green. Much history has passed in front 
of the old inn of course since those exhilarating days ; in 
1822 perhaps scene the last. For then while the great 
Fourth George was majestically reposing in his royal 
post-chaise in front of the old archway he experienced an 
unpleasant surprise. A very ungentlcmanly man named 
Calligan, a working currier who ought to have known 



240 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



better, suddenly projected his head into the carriage 
window, and observed in a voice of thunder, " You're a 




Place House — Anne of Clews' Manor House. 



murderer ! " an historical allusion to the king's late treat- 
ment of Queen Caroline, which made the royal widower 



THE DOVER ROAD 241 

" sit up." Upon which a bystander named Morris knocked 
the personal currier down, and the window of the post- 
chaise was pulled up, and the post-boy told to drive on 
as quickly as possible. 

But I cannot leave Dartford without visiting Place 
House, a delightful record of the Middle Ages, standing 
in immediate juxtaposition to an iron foundry and a rail- 
way station, and approached by a narrow lane rich in 
black mud. We are indebted for Place House, as well 
as for much that is picturesque in England, to the monks 
— or rather in this case (I beg the ladies' pardon) to the 
nuns. For the house, founded by Edward the Third, was 
a priory of Augustinians to which all the noble ladies in 
Kent, who had discovered that life is not worth a potato, 
retired serenely from a tedious world. After the disso- 
lution, Henry the Eighth saw in it a desirable residence 
for Anne of Cleves — Place House indeed was one of the 
first manors granted to this little-married but much 
dowered lady. In after times the manor was given with 
many others by James the First to Robert Cecil, in ex- 
change for Theobalds (the Stuart king's Naboth's vine- 
yard), and here its history ends ; but it is a charming 
place to feast the eyes upon still, and is best looked at 
from the farmyard. 

There is nothing much now to see or describe in the 
eight miles which separate Dartford from Gravesend. 
Cardinal Wolsey however was down this part of the 
Dover Road in 1527, with his usual Brobdingnagian reti- 
nue. The cardinal in his prosperous days must have 
been a deuce of a person to ask to one's country-house — 
as Sir John Wilshyre, of Stone Place, discovered on this 
identical occasion. For Stone Place was not big enough 
for Wolsey's nine hundred followers, and so most of them 
had to put up at Dartford, and Sir John had to pay 
the bill. 

People now go to Gravesend to embark on the P. and O. 
steamers for the uttermost parts of the earth, and so it is 
still a busy place. But it was always busy even in the old 

R 



242 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

times, and was then additionally picturesque. At 
Gravesend distinguished visitors to London made up 
their minds as to whether they would approach the 
capital by the river or the Dover Road. And if they 
decided on the river, there was generally a gorgeous sight 
to be witnessed on 

"The clear Thames bordered by its gardens green" 

— the Thames that is to say of the sixteenth century, and 
Mr. William Morris. The present Lord Mayors' Shows 
give us no conception, I fear, of the gorgeous processions 
which attended the passage of distinguished visitors up 
the river in the days when the Thames looked as Mr. 
Morris has described it, and the Lord Mayor of London 
was the important personage that French dramatists still 
believe him to be. Cardinal Pole came by this route on 
his return from exile, and the Poet Laureate in Queen 
Mary has put a fine passage into his mouth descriptive 
of his experience. With " royal barges " however, 
" thrones of purple on decks," "silver crosses sparkling 
before prows," " ripples twinkling in their diamond 
dance," " boats as glowing gay as regal gardens," we 
have nothing to do, so had better get on to Rochester 
vid Gad's Hill. 

Here Falstaff's horse was removed by Prince Hal, an 
operation which caused its owner to " fret like gummed 
velvet." Here he was desired by his unfeeling companion 
to lie down and lay his ear close to the ground in order 
that he might hear the tread of travellers — a formality 
which he declined to comply with, unless somebody 
promised to help him up. Here he was called opprobrious 
names — " Fat Guts " amongst others. Here he robbed 
the travellers who were carrying money to the king's 
exchequer, in order that he might divert it to the King's 
Arms. And here he was robbed of what he had robbed 
by his graceless confederates childishly bent on a 
practical joke. 



THE DOVER ROAD 



243 




Tlu Prtcinct Gat*, Rockattr. 



244 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 




The New Leader. 



Here too, from his house on Gad's Hill (and a very 
hideous house it is), Charles Dickens, having a full view 



THE DOVER ROAD 



245 



of the scene of this Shakesperean interlude, gave novel 
after wonderful novel to an astonished world, which was 
never sated with a humour and an observation of life which 



cian s brain was hurt, and the magic pen 
began to move painfully and with labour, 
and the chair on Gad's Hill was found 
one June morning to be empty for ever. 

I remember the shock of that announce- 
ment well. It was as if some pulse in 



were indeed Shakesperean ; but kept craving and , 
calling for more, and for more — till the magi- Jh*- 

i f / 

wl 




The Xuns' Houses, Rochester. 



the nation's heart had stopped beating. There was as 
it were a feeling that some great embodied joy had 



246 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



left the world, and silence had fallen on places of 
divine laughter. So men must have felt, I think, 
when Rabelais died — Rabelais, the man who first 
taught a monk-ridden world how to shake its sides : 
so men must have felt, I think, when the day destined 
for the departure came to Swift and Fielding and Sterne 
— Sterne so much maligned by Coleridge and Thackeray 
and others, yet of all his contemporaries the most pro- 
found, the most misunderstood. Yes, the feeling was 
general, I think, that English literature had suffered an 

irremediable loss by 
Dickens's death ; and 
time has confirmed the 
fear. We have aban- 
doned laughter in these 
days for documentary 
evidence, psychology, 
realism, and other pre- 
scriptions for sleep, and 
have entered on a liter- 
ary era which has lost 
all touch and sym- 
pathy with Dickens, 
and is indeed divinely 
dull. 

The above may ap- 
pear perhaps in a 
coaching article, a 
literary digression, but it is in truth but a resurrection 
pie of thoughts which occurred to me — and would occur 
to any real lover of Dickens — in the course of that two 
mile seven furlong walk on the Dover Road between 
Gad's Hill and Rochester, which the great author used 
to cover nearly every other day of his life. For Rochester 
is as closely associated with Dickens as Chaucer is with 
Canterbury, or Shakespeare with Stratford-on-Avon. In 
that great cycle of imaginative prose beginning with the 
Pickwick Papers and ending with Edwin Drood, Roches- 




Staircase in the Suns' Houses, Rochester. 



THE DOVER ROAD 



247 



ter is written almost on the first page, and almost upon 
the last. Is it a wonder then that in the picturesquely- 
beautiful old town reminiscences of the departed genius 
should haunt one at every step ? 

" The principal productions of Rochester," wrote Mr. 
Pickwick, " appear to be soldiers, sailors, Jews, chalk, 
shrimps, officers, and dockyard men." But I think the 




The Bull and Victoria, Rochester. 

description is truer of the three other towns of Strood, 
Chatham, and New Brompton, which are included in the 
category ; for when I was at Rochester I saw few of 
these articles of commerce, and nothing whatever I am 
bound to say of the historic conviviality of the military. 
But I saw the cathedral and the castle, which are both 
fine, especially the castle ; and I heard as it were in the 
air the voice of the immortal Jingle observing, " Glorious 



248 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

pile — frowning walls — tottering arches — dark nooks — 
crumbling staircases — old cathedral too — earthy smell — 
pilgrims' feet worn away the old steps — confessionals like 
money-takers' boxes at the theatre ; " after which I looked 
at the bridge over which David Copperfield saw himself 
coming as evening closed in footsore and tired, and 
eating the bread that he had bought for supper ; after 
which I went to the Bull and Victoria Hotel and had 
supper myself. 

" Good house — nice beds," according to Mr. Jingle, 
who however did not put up here himself, if my memory 
serves me, but he dined with the Pickwickians and recom- 
mended broiled fowl and mushrooms — if he might be 
permitted to dictate. But why prolong the description 
of that immortal night ? It is sufficient to say that at 
the Bull — which is as fine a specimen of the inn of old 
days as I have seen on my travels — everything con- 
nected with the stay of the Pickwickians is preserved 
and cherished as the apple of his eye by the courteous 
and cultivated proprietor. All is shown to those who 
are interested and reverent. The long room where the 
ball took place, " with crimson covered benches and wax 
candles in glass chandeliers ; the elevated den in which 
the musicians were securely confined ;" the corner of 
the staircase where the indignant Slammer met the vic- 
torious Jingle returning after escorting Mrs. Budger to 
her carriage, and said " Sir ! " in an awful voice, pro- 
ducing a card ; the bedroom- of Winkle "inside that of 
Mr. Tupman's," an arrangement which enabled Mr. 
Jingle to restore his borrowed plumage " unbeknownst" 
at the conclusion of the ball. All the first part of Pick- 
wick is to be seen I say at the Bull and Victoria — with 
surroundings eloquent of the old-world past ; and which 
the author has in some other of his works thus graphically 
described : — 

" A famous inn ! The hall a very grove of dead game, 
and dangling joints of mutton ; and in one corner an 
illustrious larder, with glass doors developing cold fowls 



THE DOVER ROAD 



249 




Courtyard of Bull and Victoria, Rocktsttr. 



and noble joints. And tarts wherein the raspberry jam 
coyly withdrew itself, as such a precious creature should, 
behind a lattice work of pastry." 



250 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

But to leave the Bull and Pickwick (for the Bull is 
not the only inn in Rochester to be described, nor is the 
History of Pickwick by any manner of means its only 
history) — the Crown, which stands at the foot of the 
bridge, is a modern house now, but it is built on the site 
of a venerable place with gables and barge boards, which 
stood in 1390, and was pulled down (without a drawing 
having been made of it, it is needless to remark) so late 
only as 1863. A portion of the original stable still 
stands, which is a remarkably interesting fact, since it was 
here that that scene with the carriers took place in Henry 
IV., Act II., Scene I, which was an introduction to the 
robbery on Gad's Hill. To the Crown in its old shape 
came as visitor Henry the Eighth to have a private peep 
at Anne of Cleves. He came ; he saw ; he pronounced 
her a Flanders mare. He departed, using strange words. 

The White Hart, another inn at Rochester almost 
opposite the Bull and Victoria, now presents the appear- 
ance of a small public-house ; but it can boast some 
antiquity in its way, having been built in the reign of 
Richard the Second, and in 1667 sheltered the inquisi- 
tive head of Mr. Samuel Pepys — an incident which, re- 
membering that Samuel was no enemy of good cheer, 
makes it probable that in those good old days it was the 
best inn in the place. Pepys was at Rochester on some 
business connected with the Admiralty and dockyards. 
He went to the Cathedral, but left before the service, 
strolled into the fields, viewed Sir F. Clark's pretty seat, 
and then retired to a cherry garden, where he met with 
an adventure in the shape of a young, plain, silly shop- 
keeper, who had a pretty young woman as his wife. 
Mrs. Pepys not being present, on this plain shopkeeper's 
pretty wife the susceptible Samuel threw deathly glances. 
He also kissed her, I am sorry to have to say, and 
they then ate their dinners together, and walked in the 
fields till dark. An hiatus here occurs in the Diary. 
But the paragraph on emerging from mystery ends in 
the usual way — " and so to sleep." 



THE DOVER ROAD 



251 



Besides Mr. Pepys there came to Rochester in 1573 
Queen Elizabeth, and in 1606 James the First and that 
exceedingly jovial boon companion, the King of 
Denmark ; but they appear to have been both in decent 




Restoration House, Rochester. 

and sober frame — indeed, something in the penitential 
mood — for they underwent a sermon in the Cathedral. 
James the Second was at Rochester too, but not in the 
best of spirits I apprehend, or in the mood for viewing 
any ruins except those of his own life. For he came 
here under a Dutch guard, after his first attempt to 



252 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

escape, and after a week's detention was probably allowed 
to do so. He embarked on board a tender in the river 
from a house which is still standing, and was landed in 
due course at Ambleteuse. 

But the most interesting events connected with royal 
visits to Rochester surround the stay of Charles the 
Second at Restoration House, in the course of his 
triumphant procession to London. The present owner of 
this house, which was built about 1587, Mr. S. J. Aveling, 
has kindly obliged me with some details about this royal 
and memorable visit which are full of interest and have 
been most religiously preserved. 

The king arrived at Rochester on the Monday follow- 
ing his landing at Dover. The first thing he did was to 
refresh himself ; the second to go and see the Royal 
Sovereign, then lying at Chatham. After which he 
returned to Restoration House, and was immediately 
presented with a most dutiful and loyal address from 
Colonel Gibbons, then in temporary possession of the 
place ; and also from the regiment of Colonel Gibbons 
stationed at that time in Rochester. John Marloe, the 
mayor of the city, now had his opportunity for display- 
ing loyalty, and went to the length of a "faire piece of plate, 
value one hundred pounds," being a basin and ewer gilt. 
The king must have been tired that night, and no doubt 
he slept well. He should have done so, at all events, for 
he slept in a delightful room which I have had the 
pleasure of seeing, containing amongst other curiosities 
a secret panel which opens into passages communicat- 
ing with the garden and with the roof. 

The first half of the Dover Road — that part of it as far 
as Rochester at all events — is so closely associated with 
the memory of Dickens, that another reminiscence of him 
may fittingly round its story. There is a passage then 
in Great Expectations referring to this very Restoration 
House, a place which always took his fancy, and well it 
might. 

" I had stopped," thus the passage runs, " to look at 



THE DOVER ROAD 



253 



the house as I passed, and its seared red brick walls, 
blocked windows, and strong green ivy clasping even the 
stacks of chimneys with its twigs and tendons, as if with 
sinewy old arms, made up a rich and attractive mystery." 
This mystery held him to the end. On the occasion 
of his last visit to Rochester, June 6th, 1870, he was seen 
leaning on a fence in front of the house, gazing at it, 
rapt, intent, as if drawing inspiration from its clustering 




Summtrhill. 

chimneys, its storied walls so rich with memories of the 
past. It was anticipated, it was hoped, that the next 
chapter of Edwin Drood would bear the fruits of this 
reverie. The next chapter was never written. 

The Dover Road after leaving Rochester, runs through 
Chatham, celebrated for its dockyard, for its lines, in 
which Mr. Pickwick playfully chased his hat till it intro- 
duced him to the Wardles, and gave a new start by 
doing so to his adventures ; celebrated also for a gentle- 



254 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



man of David Copperfield's acquaintance who used to 
live here in a low small shop, which was darkened 
rather than lightened by a little window, and who was 
wont to remark, " O my lungs and liver ! what do you 
want ? O Goroo ! Goroo ! " to any one who offered him 
for sale an old waistcoat. 

I went, when I was at Chatham, to see whether 
tradition could still point out the residence of this 










Town House, Ightham. 

peculiar man of genius whose strange exclamation has 
added as far as I know another gem to the English lan- 
guage, and whose remarks on his constitution are so 
pregnant with melancholy meaning to people who live 
sedentary lives ; but my search was unsuccessful ; the 
home of the author of " Goroo ! Goroo ! " is no longer 
pointed out to dyspeptic travellers ; so I set my face for 
Canterbury, finding nothing in Chatham to interest me 
further. 



THE DOVER ROAD 255 

The Dover Road after leaving Chatham is simply the old 
Watling Street with modern improvements and nothing 
more. It runs consequently in nearly as straight a line as 
can be imagined, through a fine rolling country, com- 
manding here and there fine views, and here and there 
no views at all. But that plethora of historic incident 
which marked the Dover Road as far as Rochester still 
occurs ; till, at the end of twenty-five miles one furlong 
we reach Canterbury, which is a sort of historical reservoir 
in itself. 

We are not there however yet. By no means. And 
on the way there (after passing through Rainham and 
Moor Street) Newington, six miles from Chatham, first 
gives me pause. For here a very dolorous event occurred 
in what we are pleased to call the dark ages. And it 
occurred in a priory for nuns, I am sorry to say, which 
was founded shortly after the Domesday Survey. There 
was a difference of opinion among the ladies on a rainy 
afternoon, and the next morning the prioress was found 
strangled in her bed. The catastrophe striking even 
the mediaeval authorities as something out of the ordinary 
course of nature, they took decisive measures for staying 
the scandal by burying all the nuns alive in a chalk pit ; 
a curious instance of an adroit dealing with a difficulty, 
which may be seen (the chalk pit, not the difficulty) to 
this day. 

After which heavy business we had better get on to 
Sittingbourne (thirty-nine miles six furlongs from 
London) for a little refreshment. And Sittingbourne is, 
or rather was, in the old coaching days, a good place 
for a dinner. At all events, here many of our English 
kings dined, Henry the Fifth amongst the number, who 
was sumptuously entertained at the Red Lion on his 
return from Agincourt at the cost of nine shillings and 
sixpence. (" Are visions about ? ") Here also George 
the First and George the Second refreshed repeatedly 
on their way to Hanover at the George or Rose, but, as 
I apprehend, at a more extended tariff. The George 



25 6 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



and the Rose both stand still — but as inns, alas ! no 
more. They are fallen from their previous divinity, and 
now cast a shade, and an extremely dismal one too, 
one as a shop, and the other as a lecture hall — which is 




a good instance of the sort of degraded disguise in which 
so many of the once fam6us hostelries of the great roads 
of England coyly hide themselves from the historian's 
inquiring eyes. 



THE DOVER ROAD 



257 




- . v ■ 

Old HotpiUl, Canterbury. 



*S& COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

Sittingbourne is not exactly the sort of place now, in 
spite of its august past, to make a weary traveller dance, 
and sing, and rejoice, and play the lute — as Mr. Chadband 
would have it. Far from it, if the truth must be told. 
It is indeed depressing to a distinct degree, and was the 
birthplace of a once celebrated critic. Here Theobald 
was born towards the end of the seventeenth century. 
He edited Shakespeare, and said nasty things of Pope, 
who marked, learned, and inwardly digested them, and 
thus in the Dunciad remembers him kindly. 

" Here to her chosen all her works she shows," 

sings the little man of Twickenham, describing a pastime 
of the great goddess Dulness. 

" Prose swell'd to Verse, verse loitering into Prose : 
How random thoughts now meaning chance to find, 
Now leave all memory of sense behind : 
How Prologues into prefaces decay, 
And these to notes are frittered quite away : 
How index-learning turns no student pale, 
Yet holds the eel of science by the tail ; 
How, with less reading than makes felons 'scape, 
Less human genius than God gives an ape, 
Small thanks to France, and none to Rome or Greece, 
A past, vamp'd future, old, revised, new piece, 
'Twixt Plautus, Fletcher, Shakespeare, and Corneille, 
Can make a Cibber, Tibbald, or Ozell." 

Which last, though far from a good rhyme, enshrines, 
I fear, our critic's name for ever. For by " Tibbald," 
I much regret to say, Theobald is meant. And when 
Theobald read it, I've no doubt he wished that Sitting- 
bourne had never seen him. 

After leaving which town, forward the long reaches of 
the Dover Road stretch past Bapchild, past Radfield, past 
Green Street, where in the days of the Road at the Swan 
the London coaches changed horses ; when all such 
coaching rites were celebrated as " throat-lashing," " tak- 
ing out the leaders," &c, &c, &c. And so on to Ospringe, 
where at the Red Lion horses were also kept, and a Camera 



THE DOVER ROAD 



259 




Butchtry I^ttit, CanUrt>ui 1 . 



2 6o COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

Regis in a Maison Dieu as well, for the use of such kings 
on this truly royal road as had got galled in the saddle 
and felt disposed to lie on their royal faces for a night. 
This Maison Dieu was founded by Henry the Second, 
and came afterwards into the hands of the Knights 
Templars. By them it was no doubt administered ac- 
cording to their debonair wont. Barmaids, hot soup, old 
Malvoisie, and no change given over the counter, put 
fresh life into the old place, and dimly heralded the pro- 
fuse hospitality of the coaching days ; made many knights 
and squires of high estate linger on their pilgrimage, and 
forget whither they were going. For they were going to 
Canterbury we must suppose ; and from Boughton Hill, 
about four miles on, the spire of the great cathedral was 
first seen from the backs of war-horses, mules, from the top 
of stage coaches, or from other points of view obtainable 
by travellers of all ranks on the Dover Road, and at various 
periods in its history. None but pedestrians or bicyclists 
get this view now, because the railway after leaving 
Faversham makes a detour which does not command it. 
At Faversham I should like to have paused if I had 
any business there at all, for it was a most picturesque 
place, and enshrines among its traditions a most pic- 
turesque murder, redolent of gloom, premeditation and 
the sixteenth century. The Dover Road proper how- 
ever avoids Faversham altogether, so I must avoid it too, 
and passing over Boughton Hill, and shortly afterwards 
passing by " Courtenay's Gate" (where in May, 1838, 
Sir William Courtenay, Knight of Malta, an amiable 
man, believing himself to be somebody who he wasn't, 
was shot, after his remarkable pilgrimage), pass into 
Canterbury itself, which as a cathedral town stands 
alone — like its cathedral. And everywhere in Canter- 
bury — at the Falstaff Inn beyond the West Gate, in the 
incomparable High Street, a very coloured vista itself of 
media:valism — on the grand cathedral's dreaming close, 
" the Middle Age is gorgeous upon earth again," as a 
modern poet very felicitously puts it. On all sides, at 



THE DOVER ROAD 



261 



every turn history, rpmance, legend, spring beneath our 
feet. For the moment, in face of such a treasure house 
of the fantastic past, all recollections of coachmen and 
coaches, and wheelers and leaders, and time bills, and 
Carey's Itinerary and Paterson's Roads, and other data 
for horsey history, vanish as a tale that is told. Only for 
a moment however, for the coaching tale of the Dover 



***■*'>*—*'. ..._■ 




Taking out the Leaders. 



Road has not been told yet at all, and very shortly has 

to be. 

of Canterbury — and by its 

its coaching history, with its 

shoes cast, bolting horses, 

but also its long list of 

historical visitors who reached it by the Dover Road, 

and not by the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway — 



Meanwhile the history 
history I mean not only 
accompanying casualties, 
chains snapped, &c, &c. 



262 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



calls for instant telling. For its list of historical visitors 
is long and distinguished, and the visitors must be made 
rotate in the order of their rotation, as a game-keeper 
speaking of undisciplined beaters at a battue once 
geographically remarked. 

To avoid then a too profound plunge into the past, 
I shall skip such uncomfortably early visitors as King 
Lucius, Ethelbert, and Augustine, who are so antique 




FaUtaff Inn, West Gate, Canterbury. 

that they would be very likely to get me into trouble 
if I meddled with them, and mention Becket, who 
has been much overdone, only to point out that so 
many skulls have been attributed to him, that the 
modern inhabitants have sunk into a horrid state of in- 
credulity as to any of them. The latest skull had been 
discovered (by the Daily Telegraph, I believe) when I 
was at Canterbury last ; but the burghers of Canterbury 
when I spoke of it looked at me with a pitying smile, 



THE DOVER ROAD 



263 



and directed me to the nearest house of refreshment. 
Skulls or no skulls however, it is certain that the fracture 
of Becket's at Canterbury at five o'clock on December 29, 




1 1 70, was the magnet which drew most visitors to the town ; 
and it is equally certain that the church in which Becket 
was murdered in the glorious choir of Conrad (the Prior, 
not the Corsair) was entirely burnt down in 11 74. The 



264 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

early inhabitants were much annoyed at this catastrophe. 
They held no local inquiry according to our more modern 
custom, but they beat the walls and pavements of the 
church and blasphemed, with equally satisfactory results. 
After which they sent for another architect, and William 
of Sens appeared upon the scene. All went well with 
William till one day there was an eclipse of the sun, 
upon which he fell off a scaffolding raised for turning the 
vault, and found himself so extremely unwell when he 
got to the bottom that he had to return to France — vid 
Dover of course. 

The cathedral, in spite of these mishaps, was com- 
pleted in 1 1 84. To Becket's shrine, " blazing with gold 
and jewels," came amongst others, Richard Cceur de 
Lion, on shanks's mare — barefoot too, and from Sandwich, 
which seems a curious place to have come from ; but 
Richard at the time was fresh from an Austrian dungeon, 
and could not be expected to know what was what, or 
what was the best port in his own country. After 
Richard came Edward — he with the long legs, who knew, 
as he proved in the case of Wallace, what to do with a 
patriot when he caught him. Edward approached the 
shrine with a kingly gift — with nothing more or less in- 
deed than the crown of Scotland, which next to his own 
crown, which he kept on his head, was about as costly a 
thing as he could have thought of. At Becket's shrine 
knelt Henry the Fifth, " his cuises on his thigh, gallantly 
armed," but his beaver off on this occasion, I trust, though 
it was fresh from the splendid shocks of Agincourt. In 
1520 Henry the Eighth knelt here with a much greater 
man — that is to say, with Charles the Fifth. The two 
young kings rode together from Dover, and entered the 
city through St. George's Gate. They sat in the same 
coach — I mean under the same canopy, and Wolsey, who 
was going strong at the time, was not far off. In point 
of fact he rode in front, which was the right place for 
him, if intellect took precedence in the processions of the 
age. Canterbury looked its best, 1 should imagine, on 



THE DOVER ROAD 



265 



that Whit-Sunday. The old streets lined with clergy in 
full ecclesiastical costume ; the best blood of England 
thronging about bluff King Hal ; the bluest blood of 
Spain, acting as duly phlegmatic escort to the young 







The Ouquers or tht Hopt t Canterbury. 



monarch of Castile and Aragon, Granada, Naples, 
Sicily and Milan, Franche-Comtc and the Netherlands, 
Peru and Mexico, Tunis and Oran, and the Philippines, 
" and all the fair spiced islands of the East." 



266 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

Archbishop Warham met this distinguished pair at the 
west door of the Cathedral, and no doubt performed 
with due dignity the ornate duties of his distinguished 
office. But it was not only in such purely official ex- 
ercises as these that this good archbishop shone. He 
was as good at a feast as at a reception — as he had proved 
sixteen years before. On the occasion indeed of his in- 
stallation, which must have been a very trying time, this 
primate gave a foolish trifling banquet in the archbishop's 
palace built by Lanfranc, which, from what I can read 
of it, would have made some of our most redoubtable 
seasoned aldermen stare, and on the morrow seek medical 
aid. I should not like to name the number of courses, 
or hint at the number of " subtylties " which appeared 
between each course. " Subtylties " meanwhile strike 
me as good. But were they good for one ? That is the 
question ! I doubt it, considering the quaint mediaeval 
precautions that had been taken for dealing with the 
morrow. The high steward, the Duke of Buckingham, 
indeed (who served the bishop with , his own hands, 
entered the hall on horseback, and had his own table 
decorated with " subtylties "), was especially prepared 
for ensuing fatalities. For he had the right, in recogni- 
tion of his services, of staying for three days at the 
archbishop's nearest manor for the purpose of being bled ! 
So that really, so far as I can see, when our ancestors 
banqueted they banqueted, and looked upon apoplexy 
as a naturally culminating epilogue to a merry feast. 

Archbishop Warham, on this magnificent occasion, 
had as guests the king and queen themselves, so that I 
suppose courtly conversation took up most of his time, 
and enabled him to make a show of eating while others 
gorged. But from this sweeping accusation I am pleased 
to be able to except the clergy, who fed on lampreys one 
and all, and withstood subtylties as they withstood all 
that is evil. 

But the truth is that so many kings of England 
visited Canterbury that one becomes tired of naming 



TIIK DOVER ROAD 



267 




1 1 'attring tin Nonet. 



268 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



them. They were all here more or less — and those who 
were not here ought to have been. They were all here 
mostly for " drams or prayers," except Charles the 
First, who came here to be married. He carved some 
pheasant and some venison for Henrietta Maria with 
his own royal, white, and extremely beautiful hands, 
and retired to rest with his royal bride in the room over 
the gateway of St. Augustine's College. His son was 
at Canterbury too of course at the time of the Restora- 




The Flying; Horst, Canterbury. 



tion ; but with the second Charles's connection with the 
Dover Road I have already fully dealt. 

The mention of St. Augustine's College reminds me 
of a more famous Canterbury seat of learning. The 
King's School was established by Henry the Eighth at 
the Dissolution. It possesses a Norman staircase which 
is quite unique, up which Christopher Marlowe, who was 
educated here, must often have passed, rebellious more 
generally than not, I suspect, and having the lowest 
possible opinion of his instructors. And after Marlowe, 
and some distance behind him, comes Lord Justice 



THE DOVER ROAD 



269 







The Rose, Canterbury. 



Tcntcrdcn, who was on the contrary a very studious and 
grateful boy — so much so that in after life and with all 
due solemnity he used to declare <: that to the free school 



270 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

of Canterbury he owed, under the Divine blessing, the 
first and best means of his elevation in life." The 
future judge's grandfather used to shave people for a 
penny in a small shop opposite the west front of the 
cathedral. And the last time the good judge came 
down to Canterbury he brought his son Charles with 
him, and showed him the spot, and read him a small 
homily which Charles I hope digested. 

It will not be forgotten that Canterbury as a cathedral 
town was graced for a short but stirring period in his 
life by the presence of Mr. Micawber. " I am about, 
my dear Copperfield," he wrote, " to establish myself in 
one of the provincial towns of our favoured island (where 
the society may be described as a happy admixture of 
the agricultural and the clerical) in immediate connec- 
tion with one of the learned professions." Which con- 
nection it will be remembered led the writer into the 
society of Uriah Heep, which society led him into that 
painful slough of despond which compelled him to 
describe himself as a " foundered barque,''* " a fallen 
tower," and " a shattered fragment of the temple once 
called man." 

We all know, I should hope, how the great man rose 
superior to this lamentable state of affairs — how in this 
very town of Canterbury, supported by David Copper- 
field and Traddles, he bearded Heep in his den, " or, as 
our lively neighbour the Gaul would have it, in his 
bureau ; " how with a perfect miracle of dexterity or 
luck, he caught the advancing knuckles of Uriah (bent 
on ravishing away the compromising document) with a 
ruler, and disabled him then and there, remarking at the 
same moment, " Approach me again, you — you — you 
Heep of infamy, and if your head is human I'll break 
it." All these great landmarks of literature are to me 
as it were everlasting mile-stones on the old Dover 
Road, and I but mention them to fix their site. 

Fifteen miles or so separate Dover from Canterbury. 
Near Bridge, which is about five miles on, lived Hooker, 



THE DOVER ROAD 



271 



to whom the living of Bishopsbourne was given in 1595. 
Hooker's library and the sanctity of his life were so 
remarkable that travellers to Dover in those days 
turned off the road to improve their minds and eyes; 
after which they ascended Barham Downs, a very windy 
plateau about four miles long, where many people have 







' Stringing 'em.' 



gathered together in a highly nervous state, from the 
days of Julius Caesar to that less distant period of 
history when Napoleon's camp threatened Kent and 
Christendom from the opposite heights of Boulogne. 
To name two instances of martial gatherings out of 
many between these whiles : King John's army of 
60,000 men was encamped here in 12 13, when Philip 
Augustus thought of invading England, but thought 



272 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

better of it afterwards, and left the business to his son ; 
and after John's days, in the time of Henry the Third, trie 
Downs were turned temporarily into an armed camp by 
Simon de Montfort, who hourly expected a visitation 
from Queen Elinor of France. A less martial spectacle 
was to be witnessed here on the ioth of May, 1625, 
when Henrietta Maria, on her way from Dover to 
Canterbury — on her way to church in fact — selected 
Barham Downs as the scene of her first drawing-room — 
and a very draughty drawing-room it must have been. 
Low dresses and plumes were however not de riguear in 
1625, in addition to which the court ladies who were 
present to pay their respects to their sovereign were 
provided providentially with a tent. After which 
nothing much occurred on Barham Downs till the 
muster for Napoleon's invasion already mentioned, 
except wind and snowstorms and frantic struggles of 
overdue mail coachmen to make up lost time, by 
"springing" tired cattle, and the stopping of mail 
coachmen so struggling by a gentleman named Black 
Robbin, who rode a black mare and drank a great deal 
meanwhile at a small inn between Bishopsbourne and 
Barham, whose sign still perpetuates his name. 

And so into Dover, which is seventy-one miles 
exactly from the Surrey side of London Bridge, and 
bears very few traces about it now of the Coaching Age, 
either in its inns or its atmosphere. Attacked on two 
sides by the demon steam — by land and by sea, with 
steam packets roaring at one end of the pier and tidal 
trains at the other, the very memories of old-fashioned 
travel seem to have folded their wings and fled. There 
is no touch perceptible of the Dover of 1775 — of the 
Dover, that is to say, of Mr. Jarvis Lorry and the old 
Dover Mail. Where is the drawer at the Royal George 
who opened the coach door " as his custom was " ? 
Who used to cry into the ears of still half-awakened 
passengers the following programme of peace : " Bed 
room and breakfast, sir ? Yes, sir ! That way, sir. 



THE DOVER ROAD 



273 



Show Concord ! " [The Concord bed-chamber was always 
assigned to a passenger by the Mail.] "Gentleman's 
valise and hot water to Concord. (You will find a sea-coal 
fire, sir.) Fetch Barber to Concord ! Stir about now 
there for Concord ; " and so on. Where is this drawer now 
to be found at Dover, I ask ? Where is Concord, with its 
vision of comfort and a sea-coal fire ? Where is the 
Royal George indeed ? Its place is no longer known 
among Dover inns — or it may be the Lord Warden 
Hotel, for aught that I know. 




A Roadside /hii, Ilellingboumc. 

And the customs of the inhabitants have as much 
changed of course as the sea view of their town. Dover 
no longer " hides itself away from the beach, or runs its 
head into the chalk clifts like a marine ostrich ; nor do 
the inhabitants stroll about at the dead of night and 
look seaward ; particularly at those times when the tide 
made and was near flood." Or if they do they are 
looking for a Channel Steamer, and not for smuggled 

T 



274 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

brandy. Nor do small tradesmen with no business 
unaccountably realize large fortunes ; nor does every- 
body in the town loathe the sight of a lamplighter ; for 
the pier lamps are lighted every evening ! 

No ! Dover and its inhabitants are indeed changed, 
and the only memory of the old coaching days left in the 
place are its long bills. Long I regret to say they were. 
Long they remain ; and long no doubt they will remain 
so. A sea-port cannot be the exodus of an empire 
without some such natural tendency to extravagance. 

Of the coaches on this Dover Road I have refrained 
from speaking, not because I was reserving the best thing 
till the last, but in point of fact for an exactly opposite 
reason. An indisputable authority on the subject tells 
me that, considering its importance as the principal route 
for travellers between England and France, there were 
not many coaches running on the Dover Road. I fancy 
that most people who had the wherewithal and wanted 
to catch a packet when the tide set, posted and con- 
gratulated themselves. Mr. Jarvis Lorry I know was 
not amongst this number, but then he travelled by the 
Dover Mail, which was always an institution, kept good 
time, and carried in its day historic matter. 

Of the other coaches on the Dover Road I shall make 
no mention. For once in the way, a catalogue will not 
be missed, especially when that catalogue, if made, 
would contain no sounding names in coaching story, 
would register no records in the way of speed, catas- 
trophes, or drivers especially cunning, sober, or drunk. 
Yet one coach besides the Dover Mail on this road I 
will mention, because next to the Mail it took high 
rank — in some estimations a rank above it ; because 
with its coachman in its best days, I have had the 
pleasure of shaking hands. Yes ! I have shaken hands 
with a classic coachman ! No tyro he when coaching 
was the fashion, but an artist to the tips of his fingers — 
one of the old school, whom I have heard described, by 
one who knew them well, as Grand Gentlemen ; parties 



THE DOVER ROAD 



275 







The Mote House, Ightham. 



The Ckaffl 



capable of giving Fatherly advice to bumptious pre- 
tenders — parties who at the end of a trying journey, 
&c., over heavy roads took their case at their inn with an 



T 2 



276 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



air, disembarrassed themselves of their belchers, and sat 
down to a pint of sterling port. 

Yes, in Mr. William Clements, who still enjoys a hale 




Fatherly Advice. 



old age at Canterbury, I have chanced on a type now 
almost extinct, and which another generation will only 
read of in descriptions more or less fabulous, and wonder 
whether such people have ever been. Mr. Clements, 



THE DOVER ROAD 



277 



who still takes a sort of paternal interest in those revivals 
of the coaching age which delight our millionaires 
during the prevalence of what we are pleased to call our 
summer months, lives in a snug house of his own, sur- 
rounded by memories of his former triumphs. A 
duchess might envy the Chippendale furniture in his 
drawing-room, and the bow window commands an 



■ 




Tlu Chequers, Tonbridge. 

extensive view of a rambling block of buildings which in 
days gone by housed the treasures of a choice stud. 

As I listened to this man, it seemed to me that I 
came into direct personal contact with the very genius 
of coaching days and coaching ways — felt the impulse 
which throbbed in the brains of our ancestors to be at 
the coaching office early to book the box seat : sat by 
the side of a consummate master of his craft ; was in/tiated 



278 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

in an instant into all its dark mysteries ,of " fanning," 
" springing," " pointing," " chopping " and " towelling." 
I went through snowdrifts, I drank rums and milk ; hair- 
breadth escapes in imminent deadly floods were momen- 
tary occurrences ; I alighted at galleried inns ; waiters 
all subservient showed me to " Concords " in all quarters 
of the empire. I revelled in the full glories of the 
coaching age in short in a moment ! For had I not 
touched hands with its oldest, its most revered repre- 
sentative ? 




VI.— THE YORK ROAD. 



There were two main roads to York in the old 
coaching days. The first of these was measured from 
Shoreditch, and went by way of Ware, Tottenham, and 
Waltham ; Hatfield and Stevenage ; the second was 
measured from Hicks's Hall, and went by way of 
Barnet. At the Wheatsheaf Inn at Alconbury Hill, 
down in Huntingdonshire, these two roads to York 
became one and the same road ; but the Ware route 
was four miles one furlong the shorter of the two. 

When we want to go to York now we breakfast at 
half-past eight, if we are wise, and catch the ten 
o'clock Scotch express from King's Cross. Our grand- 
fathers did not breakfast at all ; not because they had 
no appetite at half-past eight, but because they had to 
start from High Holborn at half-past six. 



280 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

According to the faculty, early rising is a healthy 
thing, yet I have known it bring strong men to their 
bier ; and besides, however enjoyable, though perilous, 
it may be in summer, I think that few of us care to leap 
from our beds at half-past five on a raw January morning. 

Yet this is what our ancestors had to do who wanted 
to catch one of the crack northern coaches. 

Shall we follow them in the spirit on one of these 
ghastly expeditions ? 

Our coach — we will take the Regent for choice — 
starts at 6.30 from the George and Blue Boar, but we 
are not there yet. We are in bed in Berkeley Square, 
Marylebone Lane, or where you please. 

Our sleep has been fevered with grim visions of the 
coming strife. It is broken by a loud knocking at the 
outer door, as in Macbeth. 

Our servant, who has overslept himself according to 
immemorial receipt, now comes to tell us that it is half- 
past five, and that the hackney coach ordered overnight 
to take us to the coach-office is already at the door. 

Unless on these occasions you ordered a hackney coach 
overnight, you were utterly undone. 

We now use strange words, and ask what sort of a 
morn it is. We are told that it is foggy, and we soon 
see that it is yellow. We have thoughts of not going to 
York, but we recollect that we have already bought our 
ticket. At the same time knocking from the hackney 
coachman below tells us that time flies. 

We now fly into our boots and hat and other things. 
A horrible attempt at preparing breakfast has been made 
in the interval by the penitent valet ; an impromptu 
effort in the way of a dingy table-cloth, a tea-urn, a loaf 
and a pat of butter, which causes us to shy on one side, 
as a thoroughbred shies at a traction engine. We seize 
our portmanteau, and hurry out into the eager morning 
air. The eager morning air is yellow, and in it the 
hackney coachman, his horse, his coach, our servant, who 
helps us in, all look supereminently the same colour. 



THE YORK ROAD 281 

In the fulness of time we arrive at the George and 
Blue Boar, Holborn. On his legal fare being tendered 
to the hackney coachman, he throws down his hat and 
offers to fight us for five shillings. We decline the 
stirring invitation and hurry into the inn yard. All here 
is bustle and animation in a sort of half gloom. 

The Stamford Regent stands ready for her flight ; four 
chestnuts with a good deal of blood about them seem 
anxious to be off; ostlers making noises after the 
manner of engines letting off steam in underground 
stations, are giving the finishing touches to the toilet. 
Afar off in a dim doorway the celebrated Tom Hennesy 
draws on his gloves, and says sweet nothings to a pretty 
housemaid, with her black hair out of curl. Ostlers are 
thrusting luggage into the boot. The boot seems to 
have an insatiable appetite for luggage. It swallows 
everything that is thrown at it, and makes no sign. 
The two inside passengers now appear upon the scene. 
One of them is an Anglo-Indian, who has whiskers 
brushed as if by a whirlwind, a voice like a bull, and a 
complexion in harmony with his surroundings. A sort 
of Jos Sedley going to York. The other is a lady of 
uncertain age, who wears her hair in curl papers, and 
pretends to a rooted antipathy to travelling alone with a 
man. This antipathy she communicates to the guard in 
a faded whisper. The guard grinning all over his face 
communicates this faded whisper to the Bengal Civil 
Servant. He receives it with matutinal curses. 

" Confound it, sir," he roars, <: then let her ride out- 
side." 

With which he hurls himself into the coach. From 
this point of vantage he shakes his fist at a wretched 
native in a turban, who, safely out of distance, salaams 
till his head almost touches the coach court-yard, and 
confesses that he has indeed omitted to provide the 
Sahib with his umbrella. 

While a terrific volley of objurgations in Bengalese 
pours from one door of the coach, the lady with the faded 



282 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



manner enters it by the other. At the same time the 
incomparable Tom Hennesy languidly mounts on to his 
box. He chews a piece of sweet lavender given by the 




Filling (lit Bool. 



pretty housemaid — assumes the whip as a marshal does 
his bdton, and darts a deathly glance over his left 
shoulder at the lingering fair. " Let 'em go," he says, 
" and look out for yourselves." The ostlers fly from the 



THE YORK ROAD 



283 




1 i 

I M> 



r 




..yfTS' 



• >H 



W» O/J Conwr, Smitkfitld. 



284 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

chestnuts' heads — the four horses spring up to their 
collars — the guard performs " Oh, dear, what can the 
matter be ? " on his bugle in a manner which would elicit 
an enthusiastic encore at an evening concert, and we are 
out of the coachyard almost before we know it, stealing 
down Holborn Hill with that " fine fluent motion " which 
De Quincey described as characteristic of the Bristol 
Mail — but which indeed could be experienced on any 
crack coach which was finely driven. 

And Tom Hennesy is a master of his art. His manner 
on the box — all great artists are mannerists — is so calm, 
so quiet — as to be almost supercilious. But he has to 
keep a sharp look-out, for he is driving through Egyptian 
darkness. The weather indeed reminds us of Homer's 
Hell ; and as for the cold, it would make a snipe shiver 
in an Irish bog. Up Cow Lane we steal, through Smith- 
field. The wheelers appear like phantom chestnuts ; the 
leaders are hardly seen ; the houses on each side of the 
way loom grim and ghostly. And through the gloom the 
Stamford Regent steals along, like some ghost of a coach 
itself. We on the box seat feel like unembodied joys. 
We have already lost the use of our hands and feet. 
Deep draughts of yellow fog complete our discomfiture. 

Suddenly shouts are heard ahead, and large herds of 
cattle throng the streets ; they seem to spring out of the 
foul air as everything does besides, but they come from 
Smithfield of course, or are going there. Drovers — 
looming phantom-like, like everything else, prove by a 
graceful flow of expletives that they are after all but men. 
Our near side leader now mistakes a strayed bullock for 
some monster of mythology and swerves on one side 
after the manner of Balaam's ass, upon which our coach- 
man, who has up to now sat perfectly upright with hands 
still, the very statue of an accomplished charioteer, im- 
mobile as fate, turns his wrist under, and lets his thong 
" go " in such a way that the near side leader's hind leg is 
nearly severed from his body. Which duty done Tom 
Hennesy remarks " that there are some of 'em as never 



THE YORK ROAD 



285 



could hit a horse." And we feel, almost as poignantly 
as the near side leader has done, that he, Tom Hennesy, 
is not to be included in the category. 

And now the Peacock at Islington (where in old days 
"The Queen's Head," pulled down in 1829, was the 
stopping tavern, with its wood and plaster walls, its three 
stories projecting over each other in front, its porch 



y; 




Tkt Quuris Htad, Islington. 

propped by Caryatides) — and now the Peacock at 
Islington begins to loom through the fog. Or rather 
the horn lantern of the old ostler, whose province it is 
to stand outside the inn and announce the names of the 
coaches as they drive up to the door, with the voice of 
an asthmatic trumpet. All the northern coaches made 
a point of stopping at the Peacock, on their way north ; 
though why they did so I have never been able to 



286 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

discover. The fact remains that there were twenty or 
more drawn up at a time here at seven o'clock in the 
morning. And such an outcry attending their arrival, 
such a clattering of hoofs, clanging of bugles, slamming 
of doors and stamping of feet on splash boards, as 
never was heard, well, out of Islington ; and through all 
this din the raucous voice of the ostler continually sounds, 
like the cry of a mediaeval herald with a cold in his head 
announcing the entry of distinguished competitors to a 
tournament. And he announces famous names though 
they arc recognized as such no longer. They made our 
fathers' blood boil at times if we are to believe De 
Quincey. These names — the York Highflyer, the 
Leeds Union, the York Express, the Stamford Regent, 
the Rockingham, the Truth and Daylight — made our 
fathers' blood boil as these famed coaches carried north- 
wards the heart-stirring news of Vittoria, or of Water- 
loo ! But times are changed — such national "telegrams 
(when we have them to transmit) are transmitted silently 
and decorously, by the telegraph. There is no adver- 
tisement possible in the way we travel now, except on 
the walls of railway stations — and of this latter form I 
regret to say Mr. Ruskin does not approve. 

But to return to ourselves and the Stamford Regent. 
The announcement of the Truth and Daylight coach 
makes us hope that we too, shortly, may see the sun. 
We see it in due course, as our steaming team breasts 
the ascent to Highgate archway. The sun springs 
lurid from a cloud of yellow mist. The great city lies 
before us, the coverlet of the fog but half withdrawn 
from her disturbed sleep. The dawn from Highgate is 
doubtless a grand sight. But it unfortunately inspires 
my next neighbour on the box seat with the idea that 
he is a Constable — this always occurs. He determines 
to paint the salient landscape — this always occurs too. 
I ask Hennesy at what point we may discern the bourn 
of the next public house. He says that the Green Man 
at Barnet is the first change, and expatiates on the 



THE YORK ROAD 



287 



soothing joys of rum and milk as applied to a constitu- 
tion that has relished a winter's dawn breakfastless. The 
Green Man at Barnet is now to me like the star, seen, or 
not seen, by the mariner, and in due course I see it, and 
alight at the first opportunity. But not before Tom 
Hennesy. In front of the Green Man at Barnet his 
languidly sedate manner goes. For here too, alas ! for 
the historic inconstancy of coachmen ! he is a great 
favourite with the fair. Looks quite the coaching 
Lothario, as he lounges against the bar, his beaver ad- 




The Two Brewers, Ponders End. 



justed rakishly, his melting glances fastened, now on his 
next team already fuming in the traces, now on the 
Barnet Hebe as hopelessly, alas ! in the toils. 

" Take your seats, gentlemen, please." 

And Barnet is soon a memory on the great north road. 
A memory however which shows some claim to " recollec- 
tion dear," fixing as it does the site of a great battle, 
.and of a highwayman's exploits, which have occupied 
almost the same space in history — I mean fiction — No ! 
I mean history. To come to details : — On Hadley 
Green, half-a-mile to the north of the town, was fought 



288 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 




til the Cress Reads. 



THE YORK ROAD 289 

on a raw, cold and dismal Easter Day, in the year 1471, 
the famous battle between the Houses of York and 
Lancaster which ended in the death of the king-maker, 
and established Edward IV. upon the throne ; and behind 
an oak tree, which still stands opposite the Green Man 
at the junction of the York and Holyhead Roads, the 
immortal Dick Turpin used to sit silent on his mare, 
Black Bess, patiently waiting for some traveller to speak 
to. The battle has been celebrated by Lord Lytton in 
The Last of the Barons, perhaps as fine an account of a 
mediaeval " set to " as can be found out of Scott. The 
noble author lived at Copped Hall, near Totteridge, and 
often used to pay visits to the scene. The Highwayman 
has been immortalized by Harrison Ainsworth. Did he 
not write in one night's sitting the whole series of chapters 
— I don't know how many there are — should not like to 
say how many there are not — in which is set forth in 
such stirring form the celebrated ride to York ? Certainly 
he did, and Macaulay as certainly denied that such a 
thing ever took place, according to the invariable practice 
of Whig historians, who are always heavy when they 
handle volatile matter. 

And Turpin's ride to York reminds me that there is 
another road to it, besides the one I am on ; namely the 
road by Ware, which, according to the prophet Ainsworth, 
Turpin took, though why he should have gone to Ware 
when he was already in Barnet is a matter which will 
ever remain one of conjecture to the curious. I think 
however that we will follow this Ware route for a few 
miles, just to get us clear of London, when I shall go off 
the York Road, so far as its history is concerned, and 
tell here of some great northern coachmen, and some 
great northern catastrophes. 

The York Road then, which goes by way of Ware, 
runs through Shoreditch, Stoke Newington, Stamford 
Hill to Tottenham, and so into Edmonton, through 
which place John Gilpin, Esq., passed at the rate of 
sixty miles an hour. The world has made itself ac- 

U 



290 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



quainted with that famous ride. But now Edmonton 
gains as much fame perhaps from having been the resi- 
dence of Charles Lamb as from Cowper's humorous poem. 
A few miles further on and we are at Enfield Highway, 
and in the neighbourhood of that celebrated Chase 
where once our kings and queens used to disport them- 
selves, but where now the jerry builder and the credulous 
agriculturist who believes in small holdings labour day 
by day. James I. was here hunting on an extremely 
wet day, on his royal progress up to London, and 




The George and Vulture, Tottenham. 

curiously, as it seems to me for such an acute sportsman, 
was much disconcerted by the showers. I had thought 
that a southerly wind and a rainy sky realized the 
hunter's ideal ; but I suppose that James's padded saddle 
got wet, certain it is that he broke up the hunt long 
before he had a chance of breaking up the stag, and 
retired to London in the worst of moods. And I hope 
the Earl of Northumberland, who rode on his right hand, 
and the Earl of Nottingham who rode upon his left, 
properly appreciated their positions. 



THE YORK ROAD 



291 



The first of the Stuarts (so far as England is con- 
cerned) was in Enfield Chase again in 1606, but he had 
a better time on this occasion. He was entertained at 
Theobalds by Cecil, and was in the company of a first- 
class boon companion in the person of the King of 
Denmark. These two often, I apprehend, woke the 
night owl with a catch in Cecil's lordly halls, which the 
King already had his eye upon. They passed into his 




The Bell, Edmonton. 



possession shortly afterwards by a process of exchange 
and mart similar to that advocated in our society 
journals. Cecil gave up Theobalds for Hatfield and I 
am not sure that he had the worst of the bargain. 

I read that when the Princess Elizabeth was residing at 
Hatfield in charge of Sir Thomas Pope, Enfield Chase 
used to be favoured a good deal too with that prospective 
royal presence. The future Queen of England always 

U 2 



292 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



knew what a wardrobe meant, and carried her love of 
finery with her to the hunting field ; to the considerable 
disgust, I should say, of her twelve ladies in waiting, 
who found themselves pursuing the flying hart, arrayed 
in white satin, and seated on ambling palfreys. 

Fifty archers, too, had to be careful what they had on 
their backs (though details as to trimming of tunics is 
not given) ; but they had gilded bows in their hands, and 




The Falcon and the Four Swans, Waltham. 



scarlet boots on their feet, and yellow caps on their heads 
— and presented, I should say, a sufficiently startling 
ensemble, which the stag they were after must have 
admired a mile off". 

To leave hunting subjects behind us and get to graver 
matter. At Camelot Moat, situated in one of the msst 
delightful and least desecrated parts of the Chase, is laid 
the last scenes of the Fortunes of Nigel. Here Dalgarno 



THE YORK ROAD 293 

waited impatiently for his rival, in order that he might 
wipe out a long score in a quiet glade ; here, as he 
shaded his eyes with his hands and gazed eagerly down 
an alley, he received a shot which, grazing his hand, 
passed right through his brain, and laid him a lifeless 
corpse at the feet, or rather across the lap of the un- 
fortunate victim of his profligacy. A very fitting close 
to a consummate scoundrel's career, and in most 
picturesque, in almost too picturesque surroundings. 

It is not however by romance alone that Enfield Chase 
earns fame as a trysting-place for people whose characters 
are doubtful. More sinister associations cling to it, 
associations linked with one of the most lurid episodes 
of a nation's history. The old house of White Webbs, 
which in 1570 Elizabeth granted to Robert Huicke, her 
physician, was pulled down in 1790. A portion of the 
grounds of Middleton, however, still marks its site ; and 
its position about a mile to the left of Enfield Wash, 
going north, gives to my gossip about the great roads of 
England its first batch of conspirators, in the authors of 
the Gunpowder Treason. For here, at this lonely house, 
then in the middle of Enfield Chase, nearly all the actors 
in the dark catastrophe, imminent at Westminster, at 
one time or another gathered. Over and over again the 
ten miles between Enfield Wash and London must have 
rung to the sound of their horses' hoofs, as they rode 
fiercely through the night — always through the night we 
may well believe — between White Webbs and London. 
That Catesby was here ten days before the meditated 
explosion is evident from Winter's confession : — 

" Then was the parliament anew prorogued until the 
fifth of November, so as we all went down until 
some ten days before, when Mr. Catesby came up with 
Mr. Fawkes to an house by Enfield Chase, called White 
Webbs, whither I came to them, and Mr. Catesby willed 
me to inquire whether the young prince came to the 
parliament ; I tolde him I heard that his grace thought 
not to be there. ' Then must we have our horses,' said 



294 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



Mr. Catesby, ' beyond the water, and provision of more 
company to surprise the prince, and leave the duke 
alone.' " 

That a more important factor in the deadly design — if 
the latest judgment of posterity is to be believed — even 
than Catesby himself was frequently at the old house in 




The Green Dragon, Cheshunt. 



Enfield Chase 
Johnson ; that 
Fawkes. 

It was stated 
Dr. Huicke by 
his sister Mrs. 
Mrs. Vaux had 
said by a priest 



is shown in the examination of James 
is to say in the examination of Guy 

by him that the place had been taken of 
his master, Mr. Meaze, of Berkshire, for 

Perkins (alias Mrs. Ann Vaux) ; that 
spent a month there, and mass had been 

whose name deponent did not know. 



THE YORK ROAD 295 

And as Mr. Meaze, of Berkshire, was none other than 
Henry Garnet, the Provincial of the English Jesuits, the 
importance of the testimony becomes apparent. And 
the fact gives birth to a fancy. It is interesting to me 
to think that Mr. Meaze, of Berkshire, with his candid 
blue eyes, his fair curling hair, his polished courteous 
manners, his form tending to an embonpoint by no means 
suggestive of asceticism ; it is interesting to me, I say, 
to think that Mr. Meaze, of Berkshire, may have been a 
well-known and respected figure about Enfield Wash. 
That he may have been recognised as Father Garnet, for 
the first time as he stood absolutely under the beam on 
that May morning — " the morrow of the invention of the 
Cross " — on the great scaffold at the west end of old St. 
Paul's ; that he may have been recognised there by some 
Enfield yeoman, who had ridden in from Enfield to see 
the show, little expecting to see in the last victim, in 
the most distinguished of all the victims perhaps, to a 
justly outraged justice, the courteous, handsome stranger, 
whom he had so admired and respected down in his quiet 
Enfield home ! 

And here I shall leave the historical part of the great 
north road and take to coaching. Of the great Tom 
Hennesy, with whom we have already made a driving 
acquaintance, an anecdote may first be told. The scene 
of it is laid of course on the Barnet route to York, on 
which route the great Tom drove. Between Hatfield 
and Welwyn then Tom aforenamed nearly got into hot 
brandy and water. And in this wise — A young gentle- 
man, named Reynardson, who in the matter of coaching 
was at quite an early age a devotee, and has lived to 
write a book of his various experiences Down the Road, 
was seated at Tom Hennesy's side on one of his numerous 
journeys from London to Huntingdon. He — the young 
gentleman — burned as usual to be Jehu. Upon which 
Tom Hennesy, who seems to have been an extremely 
agreeable and vivacious box companion, said, " Now then, 
sir, you must take them a bit." Mr. Reynardson did 



296 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



not refuse the contest. Far from it. He changed seats 
with Mr. Hennesy, "took them a bit," and all went 
well between Hatfield and Welwyn. Arrived at this 
place (where the coach changed horses) Tom Hennesy 
remarked that he had better take them down the hill. 
And why did he think it necessary to depose his young 
proteg^ at the very apex of his triumph ? Because he 
had the fear of a " three-cornered old chap named 
Barker " before his eyes. " Who would kick up a devil 




The Roebuck, Knebworth. 

of a row if he saw you working ! " Thus spoke Tom 
Hennesy, with great disrespect to the proprietor of the 
White Hart at Welwyn who horsed the coach. Thus 
he spoke and prepared to take the reins from the un- 
willing hands of the unwilling neophyte when lo ! he 
looked ahead and saw the very " three-cornered old chap" 
spoken of advancing up the hill to meet them. The 
situation was now summed up in three words, " Here's a 
go ! " At the same time Mr. Hennesy disdained to 
attempt disguise at a time when disguise was useless, 



THE YORK ROAD 297 

and told Mr. Reynardson to drive on and not look at him 
— by him meaning Barker. 

Perhaps he hoped to escape by a quick change at the 
inn below. But not so. Before the fresh horses had 
been put in, entered to them Mr. Barker, not wearing 
upon his face the most pleasant expression in the world. 
In fact it was so unpleasant that Tom saw that it meant 
mischief, and adopting the method prescribed by the 
best pugilists " opened fire " at once. In point of fact he 
remarked "Good morning, Mr. Barker, sir! Did you 
ever see a young gentleman take a coach steadier down 
a hill ? " Mr. Barker showing no immediate inclination 
or capacity for answering this question, the glib Tom 
continued, " Ton my word, sir, he could not have done it 
better. He's a pupil of mine, and I'm blessed if he didn't 
do it capital ! Don't you think he did, sir, for you seed 
him ? " 

What could the three-cornered Barker answer to this 
appeal ? Nothing ! And this is practically what he 
answered, muttering something about "against the rules," 
and " don't do it again." And so Tom and Mr. Rey- 
nardson got off very lightly from what might have been, 
had it not been lessdirectly handled, an awkward dilemma 
— and Tom should have been grateful to Barker for once. 
But his gratitude, I am sorry to say, did not take* a very 
grateful form. " Well, he was wonderful civil for him," 
he said as soon as they got off. So far so good, but 
now comes the fall. " But as I said before he's a cross- 
grained, three-cornered old chap at the best of times, 
and if I could only catch him lying drunk in the road, 
I'd run over him and kill him, blessed if I wouldn't " — 
and then comes the cause of so sanguinary an indigna- 
tion — " What business had he to be walking up the 
hill ? I suppose he thought he should catch me shoulder- 
ing." 

And " shouldering " in the tongue of coachmen and 
guards meant taking a fare not on the way-bill and un- 
known to the proprietor. 



298 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

This same Tom Hennesy had a celebrated whip — it 
was a crooked one — and in his practised hands inflicted 
deadly execution on lagging wheelers, and on leaders 




A Coachman's Courtship. 



given to dropping going down declines, on coach horses 
meriting justice generally. But perhaps the most re- 
markable thing about this whip was that it was not Tom 
Hennesy's own. No! He had " conveyed it," as the 



THE YORK ROAD 



299 



wise call it, from a brother coachman, whose weakness 
it was to borrow stray whips with no fixed intention of 
returning them. 

The end of this accomplished artist in his own line — 




The Falcon, Huntingdon. 



clearly, from what I can learn, one of the most distin- 
guished box figures on the first eighty-nine miles out of 
town of the great north road — is melancholy in the ex- 
treme to contemplate. But it is typical at the same time 
of the remorseless destiny forced on men who were really 



300 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

fine men in their way by the Nemesis of a new invention. 
It is a marvel to me when I read the record of their fall 
that stage coachmen did not form themselves into an 
amalgamated society, with branches everywhere, for 
smashing locomotives. Never surely was such a fall 
seen since the days of Lucifer, who is rather out of fashion, 
as the fall of the great stage coachmen before the demon 
steam. The observed of all observers at one moment ! 
In another, heeded by no one ; buried away in obscure 
corners of out-of-the-way counties ; driving buses ; 
hanging about inn-yards, where formerly their very foot- 
fall produced clumsy reverences from drunken post- 
boys ; melancholy, blue-nosed phantoms of their former 
selves. Seldom surely has there been so cruel a revo- 
lution ! 

Why, this man Tom Hennesy, the dandy of the 
Stamford Regent ! the knight of the crooked whip, the 
adored of barmaids, the idol of schoolboys, horsily in- 
clined, for eighty-nine miles of the finest coaching road 
in England, came down from mere natural force of 
circumstances — circumstances in a real sense over which 
he had no control — to what ? To driving a two-horsed 
'bus from Huntingdon to Cambridge. 

Nor is the hope permitted that others of his craft as 
distinguished as he, fared better at the end of laborious 
lives when fortune should have shone kindliest upon 
their efforts. John Barker indeed — the Daniel Lambert 
of the north road — not a swell coachman, but as strong 
as the man of Gath and as safe as the Bank of Eng- 
land, was saved the painful experience of seeing his 
empire ravished away from him by the Great Northern 
Railway Company ; but he was only saved from this 
humiliation by a mortification setting in after an accident 
to his right foot, and what the ultimate fate of Cart- 
wright was, and what the last engagement of Leech, 
I scarcely like to consider. Yet few, not excepting 
even Hennesy, could show greener laurels than they. 

For the first of them, Cartwright — who drove the 



THE YORK ROAD 



301 



York Express from Buckden to Wclwyn and back — 
about seventy miles every day — was described by Peter 
Pry in the Sporting Magazine, and Peter Pry knew 
what he was describing, as almost everything that a 
fine coachman should be — "under fifty years of age, 
bony, without fat, healthy-looking, evidently abstemious ; 
moreover not too tall, but just the proper size to sit 
gracefully." So much for a general view ! And to 




Huntingdon Bridge. 



descend to detail — " His right hand and whip were 
beautifully in unison ; " at which point Peter Pry appears 
to me to rise into the regions of metaphor in the de- 
scription of his favourite. But he continues his eagle 
flight undaunted. 

" Cartwright's perfections," he cries, " end not here ! 
His manner of treating his leaders is equally fine. 
His system is stillness, and to drive without using 



302 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

the whip ; his personal equipment, not that of a dandy, 
but modest, respectable, in confirmed good taste." 

Well this it seems to me is the description of an 
artist's salient traits — the sort of critical effort which 
we expend now on young actors who bound upon the 
stage without experience ; on authors who write African 
romances without having read their Dumas ! And I 
could quote twenty more examples of a coachman's 
fine points as carefully considered, had I the space to 
do so or the inclination. Cartwright's great rival, to 
take one instance, has been as carefully weighed in as 
crucial a balance and not found wanting. He drove 
the Edinburgh Mail from Stamford to Doncaster, about 
seventy-five miles. Not so polished a man as Cart- 
wright quite ; but of his method — quietness itself. 
Under his urbane direction, no hurry, no distress, no 
whipping, the pace ten miles an hour, including stop- 
pages, seemed nothing to do. And a team of four bay 
blood mares did this nothing from Barnby Moor to 
Rossiter Bridge in exceptionally gratifying style. 

Peter Pry in this neighbourhood, or, to speak more 
accurately, in the neighbourhood of Sutton, was witness 
of a local custom from Leech's box-seat which filled him 
with an ingenuous surprise. This was the annual offering 
of extremely indigestible first-fruits to guards and coach- 
men, not excluding passengers, by the honest-hearted 
farmers and cottagers of the roadside. 

When I say that upon a tray covered with a beautiful 
damask napkin, plum cakes, tartlets, gingerbread, ex- 
quisite home-made bread, and biscuits,profuselyappeared, 
my readers may understand what sort of a digestion was 
needed to cope with them on a May morning after sundry 
rums and milks. The deadly list however is not concluded, 
ales, currant and gooseberry wines, rounded the homicidal 
whole ; ales and currant wines only more instantaneously 
fatal from the pleasing appearance which they pre- 
sented in old-fashioned glass jugs embossed with jocund 
figures. 



THE YORK ROAD 303 

But was Peter Pry's figure jocund after he had par- 
taken ? " Eat and drink you must," he says. " I tasted 
all." Wretched man, let him describe in directly simple 
words his own miserable subsequent state ! " My poor 
stomach," he writes, " not used to such luxuries at eleven 
in the morning, was in fine agitation for the remaining 
fifty miles of the ride." 

And who can say justly that this agitation was to be 
wondered at ! 

It must not be thought however that perils such as 
these, springing from an unreasonable hospitality were 
the only perils to be encountered in the coaching days 
on the great north road. Catastrophes abound in the 
record ; and this very Stamford Regent which I have 
been speaking of used frequently to get" into cold water 
when the floods were out and the weather rainy. 

Mr. C. T. Birch-Reynardson who has much to say 
about the northern coaches in his Down the Road, com- 
memorates one of these contingencies, which occurred in 
this wise — At a place called St. Neot's, fifty-six miles 
from London, the Regent coach used to leave the main 
road, every now and then, for some reason which remains 
occult, and go round by some paper mills, which were 
naturally situated on the flat. The river Ouse has a 
habit, as is well known, of playfully overflowing its banks, 
and the consequence was that the road lying before the 
Regent coach lay sometimes for half a mile under water. 
Now an extra pair of leaders were put on, and ridden by 
a horsekeeper, who made the best of his way through a 
situation which was novel not to say precarious. The 
water was often up to the axle-trees ; and on the par- 
ticular occasion of which Mr. Reynardson writes, went 
beyond this limit and invaded the inside of the coach. 
For a moment or two the Stamford Regent was afloat, 
also two old ladies who were inside of it, with their goods 
and chattels. Their cries and laments when they found 
the coach gradually being converted into an Ark 
were heartrending in the extreme. They gave them- 



3"4 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 




.C _ 



■ Jnr 



.*;/'» 



/I Morning Draught. 




selves utterly for gone, and prepared for the most com- 
fortable, but moistest of all deaths. Nor were the outside 
passengers in very much better plight. For though they 



THE YORK ROAD 305 

were not sitting absolutely in the water, as I am sorry 
to say the old ladies were ; still they were sitting in 
wet clothes, which is the next thing to it — and in this 
situation commanded as fine a prospect of water above, 
below, and around, as has been seen by travellers I 
should say since the flood. In addition to this not alto- 
gether gratifying panorama of flood effects, unseen 
dangers were on every side ; to wit, a large ditch on one 
side, and a series of huge heaps of stones on the other : 
both pleasantly invisible by reason of the great waters, 
but both clearly there for a specific purpose ; the stones 
to overturn the coach ; the ditch to receive it when it 
had been overturned. It must have been a truly critical 
five minutes for the Regent, Tom Hennesy, the passen- 
gers, the horses and everybody else, but they all got 
safely through and thanked their stars. 

At Wandsford, thirty miles or so further down the 
road, this same coach nearly came to an overturn with- 
out the aid of water, through the combined efforts of a 
smart set of red roans who were fit for any gentleman's 
drag, a young coachman too full of valour, and a very 
awkward, old and narrow bridge. The roans were fresh, 
and declined to face it. The coachman (young Norval, 
I mean young Percival, was his name) dropped into them. 
Upon which the roans committed themselves to a suc- 
cession of sudden antics, too rapidly consecutive to be 
followed. What principally followed however was that 
in the twinkling of an eye the people on the Regent 
coach found themselves once more at the door of the 
Haycock Inn. A place of entertainment which they had 
a moment previously left, but with this radical change in 
the general position of affairs — the horses' heads pointed 
to London instead of to Stamford. 

Young Percival having no explanation to offer as to 
how such a phenomenon could have occurred, handed 
the reins to old Barker, much to the re'.ief of the out- 
side passengers, who had seldom felt so like humming tops 
in their lives, and by reason of the altitude at which 



3o6 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

they had been set spinning, were feeling very low in 
their minds. And old Barker, safe as the Bank of 
England, as he always was, quieted the four roans, and 
negotiated the bridge without further revolution of any- 
thing, except wheels. 

And here I think that I may leave the coaching side of 
the York Road. When I leave it, I leave by no means the 
most important or the most picturesque side of its story. 
I have still something to say of the York Road's grand 
inns, as fine specimens of their class of building as are 
to be found anywhere in England. Witness the great 
hostelries at Huntingdon, Stamford, Stilton, and Grant- 
ham. And these fine houses are not only interesting 
in themselves, picturesque as the quaint towns, of which 
they are the centre, but they are alive with history, 
fragrant with memories of those good old times, 
when the Mail performed the whole 199 miles in two 
days and three nights, if God permitted, and complaints 
were made about so extraordinary a velocity, which had 
caused several intrepid travellers on reaching London to 
die suddenly of an affection of the brain. 

But before I deal in detail with the York Road's 
great inns, I think that a ride over the distance will 
be advisable, if only to give some sort of idea as to how 
the land lies. And we have been in coaches and Flying 
machines so often, that I think that a turn on horse- 
back may be a welcome change. And so I propose to 
go to York with Dick Turpin, though he was pronounced 
by Macaulay to be a myth. 

I find then, on referring to the prophet Ainsworth, 
that Dick Turpin started for his celebrated ride from 
the Jack Falstaff at Kilburn — an inn I do not find in 
my Paterson's Roads. Here, after having regaled a 
cosmopolitan company with several flash chaunts, gener- 
ally prefaced by some such remark as " Let me clear 
my throat first ! And now to resume ! " the gallant 
Turpin's impromptu oratorio was interrupted by the 
rapid entrance of those who — " in point of fact " wanted 



THE YORK ROAD 



307 



him. Upon which he "got to horse" upon his mare 
Black Bess, shot his friend Tom King by mistake (who 
observed to a lady opportunely standing by him, "Susan, 
is it you that I behold ? ") — and then rode off to the crest 
of a neighbouring hill, whence a beautiful view of the 
country surrounding the metropolis was to be obtained. 
Here his bosom suddenly throbbed high with rapture ; 
he raised himself in the saddle, and prefacing his declar- 
ation with a profanity, said that he would do it. And by 
" it," he meant his ride to York. 

I Ie at once shaped his course for " beautiful, gorsy, 




Bridge at St.h'fS. 



sandy Highgate." No doubt he would have admired the 
scenery more (he was a great admirer of scenery was 
Turpin, and that is one reason why I am going with him 
to York) if " the chase had not at this moment assumed 
a character of interest " — whatever that may mean. 
Turpin however saw nothing favourable in the phenom- 
enon, and made over Crackskull Common to Highgate. 
He avoided the town, struck into a narrow path to the 
right, and rode leisurely down the hill. His pursuers at 
this point somewhat aimlessly bawled to him to stand — 
seeming to forget in their flurry that he was on horseback. 
The gallant Dick answered their demands by unhesitat- 

X 2 



3o8 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



ingly charging a gate, and clearing it in gallant style. He 
then scudded rapidly past Highgate, " like a swift-sailing 
schooner with three lumbering Indiamen in her wake." 
And so through Du Val Lane — (what tender recollections 
must here have possessed that manly breast) into Hornsey 
• — where the turnpike fellow closed the toll-bar in his face, 
and the " three lumbering East Indiamen " (the meta- 
phors here become a trifle mixed — but no matter) cried 
aloud, " The gate is shut ! We have him ! Ha ! Ha ! " 




But not so ! though the 

old Hornsey toll-bar was a 

high gate, with cJievaux de 

/rise in the upper rail ! Not 

» so ! though the gate swung 

into its lock ; " and like a 

tiger in his lair the prompt 

custodian of the turnpike, 

ensconced within his doorway, held himself in readiness 

to spring upon the runaway." Not so ! For what did 

Dick do ? He did four things. 

i. He coolly calculated the height of the gate. 

2. He spoke a few words of encouragement to Bess. 

3. He stuck spurs into her sides. 

4. He cleared the spikes by an inch. 



THE YORK ROAD 309 

The next event which followed in this order, was the 
narrow escape of the toll-bar keeper, who, tired of 
crouching like a tiger in his lair, rushed out of it, and 
was nearly trampled to death under the feet of the three 
lumbering East Indiamen — that is to say under the 
feet of Paterson's (chief constable of Westminster's) 
horse. 

" Open the gate, fellow," he (Paterson) cried. 

But the man said " not at all " unless he got his dues. 
He'd been done once already ; and he was prepared to 
be struck stupid if he was done a second time. By which 
ingenious block, while Paterson was feeling in his pocket 
for a crown piece, our friend Richard was enabled to take 
advantage of the delay and breathe his mare — after which 
he struck into a bye lane at Duckett's Green, and canter- 
ing easily along came at Tottenham (four and a half 
miles from London), for the first time in his ride, into 
the Great North Road. 

At Tottenham the whole place was up in arms. 
The inhabitants shouted, screamed, ran and danced. 
They also hurled every possible missile at the horse 
and her rider. And what did Dick do under these 
sufficiently embarrassing circumstances ? Why, he 
" laughed at the brickbats that were showered thick as 
hail and quite as harmlessly around him." After which 
he proceeded at his best pace to Edmonton (seven 
miles from London). Here too, as at Tottenham, the 
ingenuous natives turned out to a man to see him pass. 
But they did not throw brick-bats at him: far from it! 
They supposed that Dick was riding for a wager, and 
received him with acclamations. But now came borne 
on the windowings the pursuers' ominous cries, "Turpin ! 
Dick Turpin ! " upon which in an instant the good 
Edmontonians ratted, and hissed ; and no toll-gate, 
twelve feet high, with chevanx de /rise in the upper 
rail, being handy, a man in a donkey cart, somewhat 
ostentatiously drew himself up in the middle of the 
road. And Turpin went through the usual formula 



3 io COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

above categorically set down "and cleared the driver 
and his little wain with ease." This feat brought down 
the house or rather the street. " Hark-a-way, Dick ! " 
resounded on all hands. 

Pursued and pursuers, I now observe with pain (for a 
change of metaphor is always embarrassing), " fly past 
scattered cottages along the Enfield Highway" (nine and 
a half miles from London) no longer " like a swift-sailing 




Driving to Catch the Mail. 



schooner with three lumbering Indiamen in her wake," 
but " like eagles on the wing." To descend from these 
aerial regions to the hard high road — they were all going 
well and strong. Coates's party not having lost ground, 
but perspiring profusely, Black Bess not having turned 
a hair. It was at this period in the journey, somewhere 
about Waltham Cross, that is to say, that Dick said, 
" I'll let 'em see what I think of 'em," and turned his 
head. This was surely an unnecessary step. But the 



THE YORK ROAD 311 

lighting of the pipe, while Black Bess was still at full 
stretch, was a worthier effort in the way of showing con- 
tempt, and caused one of the enemies who pursued, 
whose name was Titus, who rode " a big Roman-nosed, 
powerful, flea-bitten Bucephalus," to call out on his 
* ; mother who bore him," and thump the wind out of his 
horse with his calves. Shortly after which extraordinary 
manoeuvre the pursuers lost sight of Turpin altogether, 
till, encouraged by a wagoner's assurance that they would 
find the great highwayman at York, they caught a 
glimpse of him just outside Ware (twenty-one miles 
from London measured from Shoreditch Church), stand- 
ing with his bridle in his hand coolly quaffing a tankard 
of ale. 

Here the pursuers changed horses, either at the Bull 
or the Fox and Hounds, and again " pursued their 
onward course. Night now spread her mantle over the 
earth ; still it was not wholly dark. A few stars were 
twinkling in the deep, cloudless heavens, and a pearly 
radiance in the eastern horizon heralded the rising of the 
orb of night," after which atmospheric eccentricities, it 
appears to me that we had better get forward as quickly 
as possible — as Turpin did. Whether from the atmo- 
spheric eccentricities already alluded to, or from some 
occulter cause, peculiar physical symptoms might at this 
moment have been detected in Turpin himself, had a 
medical man been riding by him armed with a stetho- 
scope. His blood " spun through his veins ; wound round 
his heart ; and mounted to his brain." Where it next 
went to is not on record ; but the possessor of 
this peculiar circulation went " away," away ! Hall, 
cot, tree, tower, glade, mead, waste, woodland, and 
other etceteras to travel are seen, passed, left behind 
— vanish as in a dream. To be plain, Turpin rode 
as hard as he could, I suppose, through Wades Mill, 
Puckeridge, Buntingford, Royston, till the limits of two 
shires have already been passed, and as he surmounts the 
" gentle hill that slips into Godmanchester," he enters 



3«2 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



the confines of a third county — in point of fact the 
merry county of Huntingdon. 

"The eleventh hour was given from the iron tongue of 

St. Mary's spire as he rode through the deserted streets " 

— of Huntingdon, which, as Huntingdon is fifty-eight 

miles and three-fourths from London, and as Turpin left 

the metropolis at seven o'clock, shows 

a record I believe of nearly sixty miles 

in four hours. 

I am sorry for one thing that Tur- 
pin did not stop in Huntingdon, 
because in the George he would 
have found a very fine inn there ; 
but I suppose he heard his pur- 
suers behind him, for he was gone 
like a meteor almost before 
he had appeared. Shortly 
afterwards he found him- 
self surrounded by dew- 
gemmed hedges 
and silent, 
slumbering 
trees, also with 
broad meadows, 
pasture-land, 
drowsy cattle, 
and low-bleat- 
i n g sheep. 
" But what to 
Turpin at that 
moment was 
was nothing ! 




The Fox and Hounds. 



It 



Nature, animate or inanimate?" 
He was thinking only of his mare — and of himself. 
And here I am sorry to say the light-hearted high- 
wayman fell almost into the weeping mood at the 
mawkish thought that no bright eyes rained their 
influence upon him ; no eagle orbs watched his move- 
ments ; no bells were rung ; no cup awaited his achieve- 



THE YORK ROAD 



313 



ment ; no sweepstakes ; no plate. But at about Alconbury 
Hill, sixty-four miles from London, where the two roads 
to York meet, he recovered himself happily from this 
degraded dejection — asked himself what need he had of 
spectators, reminded himself that the eye of posterity 
was upon him, and midway between Alconbury Hill and 
Stilton (the intersecting dykes, yawners, gullies, or what- 




The Gtorgt, HunHtttfrm. 



ever they are called, beginning to send forth their steam- 
ing vapours) burst suddenly from the fog upon the York 
stage coach. 

It being no uncommon thing for the coach to be 
stopped, the driver drew up his horses. Turpin at the 
same moment drew up his mare. I had always hoped 
that he was going to leap over the York coach too ! But 
no ! An exclamation was uttered by a gentleman on the 



3'4 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



box-seat — " That's Dick Turpin ! " he exclaimed. The 
name of Turpin acted like magic on the passengers, 
according to advertisement. One jumped off behind ; 
another having projected a cotton nightcap from the 
window drew it suddenly back. A faint scream in a 
female key issued from within ; there was a considerable 
hubbub on the roof ; and the guard was heard to click his 
horse-pistols. All which preliminaries having been ad- 




<2W 

Down the Hill on a Frosly Morning. 

justed, two horse-pistols having been discharged point- 
blank without any outward and visible effect, and some 
violent dialogue having been carried on between Dick and 
a Major Mowbray, who was perched on the box-seat of the 
coach, relating to an obscure and wicked baronet resident 
somewhere in Sussex, the York mail went aimlessly on 
its way to London, and Turpin rode through Stilton 
(which is a place I shall have a great deal to say about in 



THE YORK ROAD 



315 



a minute), through Norman's Cross, through Wansford 
turnpike gate, till eighty odd miles had been traversed, 
and the boundary of another county, Northampton, 
passed, when he deemed it fitting to make a brief halt. 
He drew up, it will be remembered, at a small hostelry 
with which he was acquainted, bordering the beautiful 
domain of Burleigh. " Burleigh House by Stamford 
Town " that is to say. Here he called for three bottles 




St. Mary's, Stamford. 



of brandy, a pail of water, a scraper, a raw beefsteak, 
and other adjuncts to the toilet. Which order having 
been executed, the most sedulous groom could not have 
bestowed more attention upon the horse of his heart 
than Dick Turpin now paid to his mare. He performed, 
in fact, a complete variety entertainment of strange 
tricks common to ostlers, concluding the display 
by washing Black Bess from head to foot in the 



316 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

diluted spirit ; not however, I am glad to be able to say, 
before he had conveyed a thimbleful of the liquid to his 
own parched throat. The effect of these blandishments 
on Black Bess may better be imagined than described — 
"her condition was a surprise even to Dick himself." 
Her vigour seemed inexhaustible, her vivacity not a whit 
diminished, and suddenly " she pricked her ears and 
uttered a low neigh." 

" Ha ! " exclaimed Dick, springing into his saddle ; 
" they come ! " 

A very short time after having made which remark, 
Dick Turpin and his mare were " once more distancing 
Time's swift chariot in its whirling passage o'er the 
earth," in which agreeable exercise Stamford (89 miles 
from London) and the tongue of Lincoln's fenny shire 
on which it is situated, are passed almost in a breath. 
Rutland is won and passed and Lincolnshire once more 
entered. The Black Bull on Witham Common used to 
mark the borders of the counties, and at the same time 
the hundredth milestone from London. 

At about this point of the journey Dick's blood was 
again on fire. " He was giddy as after a deep draught 
of kindling spirit." This disagreeable symptom passed 
off, my readers will be glad to learn — " yet the spirit was 
still in the veins " — " the estro was working in the brain." 
Subject to this somewhat complicated condition of 
circulation is it surprising that Dick gave vent to his 
exaltation in one wild prolonged halloo ? or that Bess, 
catching the spirit of an example so contagious, also 
bounded, leaped, and tore up the ground beneath her ? 
And so " as eddying currents sweep o'er its plains in 
howling, bleak December," the pair pass over what 
remained of Lincolnshire — left the town of Grantham 
(no miles), to which I shall also return in a moment or 
two, behind them, and in due course, that is to say when 
they had covered another mile and three quarters, they 
were rising the ascent of Gunnerby Hill. From here 
there is a fine prospect — on the right Lincoln Minster, 



THE YORK ROAD 



317 



and on the left Belvoir Castle. The prospect however 
which interfered, so far as Turpin was concerned, with 
these scenic surroundings, took the form of a gibbet on 
the round point of hill which is a landmark to the whole 
plain of Belvoir : and to complete the disillusionment, 
two " scarecrow objects covered with rags and rusty links 







*& 



I 



L "Z 






A 



■ 



X 



t 



Xewark Castle. 



of chains depended from the tree." I need not mention 
I hope that on being confronted with this coup de thedtre 
prepared for him on a highway, Turpin looked up with 
an involuntary shudder, and remarked, " Will this be my 
lot, I wonder ? " any more than I need recount with 
detail the immediate springing from beside a tuft of 
briars that skirted the blasted heath, of a crouching 



3i8 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



figure who observed, " Ay, marry, will it." Such facts in 
romances are every-day experiences, without the aid of 
which their surprising worlds would not go round. 
Besides, such matters have nothing to do really with the 
ride to York. Time also presses — as the novelist almost 
immediately afterwards remarks — and we may not linger 
on our course. 

With a view of obviating which undesirable contingency 
the prophet Ainsworth proceeds to pass full forty miles 
in a breath of the Great North Road, and having left 
Dick admiring highwaymen hung in chains on Gunnerby 
Hill, just out of Grantham, proceeds to pick him up 




The Crinvn, Bawtry. 

again as he rides through Bawtry, which is 153 miles 
from London, as measured from Hicks's Hall, and is 
also where the Great North Road enters Yorkshire. 
But it may be well to mention that before Turpin got to 
Bawtry he went through Newark, 124^ miles from 
London, and 2\ miles over the Nottinghamshire border 
— past Scarthing Moor inn (a posting-station in old days 
but where is it now ?), through Tuxford, where the Red 
Lion was a famous inn in the coaching days — now as 
the Newcastle Arms, and posting-house not unknown to 
fame — and so on past East Retford and Barnby Moor 



THE YORK ROAD 



319 



inn 147^ miles from London to the bourne where we 
left him. 

And from Bawtry the roads to York diverge— the 
main and mail road going by Doncaster, Ferrybridge, and 
Tadcaster into our terminus : the lower road going by 
Thome, Selby, and Cawood. And Turpin took the 
lower road. And here the first signs of calamity began 
to overtake him. His mortal pursuers seem long since 




Making the Yard Ring. 



to have abandoned all idea of performing this feat. 
One of them named Titus, was resting like a wise man 
at the Angel at Grantham — having had as he poetically 
remarked, " a complete bellyful of it," the rest were 
pursuing still no doubt — but nearly a county separated 
them from their prey. Yes, it was at such a crisis of 
affairs, when all promised to end prosperously for 
Richard Turpin, Esquire, that, as I say, calamity began 
to overtake him. As he was skirting the waters of the 



320 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

deep-channelled Don, Bess began to manifest some slight 
symptoms of distress. This was bad enough ; but it " was 
now that gray and grimly hour ere one flicker of orange 
or rose has gemmed the East, and when unwearying 
Nature herself seems to snatch brief repose." Under 
such a depressing condition of affairs, I cannot wonder 
for my part, that Bess's slight symptoms of distress were 
communicated to her master, and that our gallant high- 
wayman began to feel extremely low in his mind. 
" Hope forsook him, the reins also forsook his chilled 
fingers, his eyes, irritated by the keen atmosphere, 
hardly enabled him to distinguish surrounding objects," 
— and it was owing probably to this latter circumstance 
that Bess suddenly floundered and fell, throwing her 
master over her head. Turpin instantly recovered himself. 

But his practised eye soon told him that Black Bess 
was in a parlous plight. Her large eyes glared wildly. 
" She won't go much further," said Turpin, " and I must 
give it up ! What ! . . . give up the race just when it's 
won ? . . . No ! . . .That can't be. . . Ha ! Well thought 
on ! " — with which he drew from his pocket the inevitable 
phial, without which romances could never be brought to 
their end. " Raising the mare's head upon his shoulder, 
he poured the contents of the bottle down her throat " — 
and lo ! in the twinkling of an eye he was once more at a 
gallant pace traversing the banks of the Don and skirt- 
ing the fields of flax that bound its sides ! 

Snaith was soon passed, and our hero was well on the 
road to Selby, when dawn put in an appearance with the 
usual accompaniments of sparrows twittering, hares 
running across the path, and mists rising from the earth. 
It became extremely foggy, and Turpin, I am sorry to 
say, was so weak as to be influenced by the climate and 
became foggy too. 

He became aware of another horseman riding by his 
side. " It was impossible to discern the features of the 
rider ; but his figure in the mist seemed gigantic, neither 
was the colour of his steed distinguishable." And Dick 



THE YORK ROAD 



321 



having taken note of these phenomena, came somewhat 
hastily to an amazing conclusion. " It must be Tom," 
thought he ; " he is come to warn me of my approaching 
end. I will speak to him." 

But why Tom ? Indeed it was not Tom at all as 
Turpin discovered by and by when the atmosphere had 
become clearer. " Sir Luke Rookwood by this light ! " 
was the exclamation which sounded the depths of this 







Boot ham Bar, York. 



conundrum and proved the grim personage who rode at 
our hero's right hand to be none other than the obscure 
and aimless baronet, resident somewhere in Sussex, and 
already mentioned in the encounter with the York 
Mail. 

After a brief mysterious dialogue with this mysterious 
and aindbss personage, principally dealing with such 
fanciful subjects as oaths, affianced brides, contracts 

Y 



322 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

sealed with blood or not sealed, as the case may be, 
Turpin rode down to the Ferry at Cawood — 189I miles 
from London. Nine miles only separated him from his 
goal. But the ferryman accidentally happened to be on 
the other side of the river, and at the same moment a 
loud shout smote his ear — (Turpin's ear, not the ferry- 
man's). This shout was the halloo of the pursuers. 
The only thing to be done now was to ford the river, 
and this Dick Turpin did. Once on the other side, he 
had a fresh start — in other words, " Once more on wings 
of swiftness" Black Bess bore him away from his 
pursuers. But Major Mowbray, who was one of them, 
saw that all this parade of victory was only an expiring 
flash. " She must soon drop," he observed. Bess how- 
ever held on past Fulford — "till the towers of York 
(199 \ miles from London) burst upon him in all the 
freshness, the beauty and the glory of a bright clear 
autumnal morn. The noble minster, and its serene and 
massive pinnacles, crocketed, lantern-like, and beautiful ; 
Saint Mary's lofty spire ; All Hallows' tower, and archi- 
tectural York generally, to make a long list short, 
beamed upon him ; shortly after which another mile was 
passed ; shortly after which Dick shouted " hurrah ! " 
shortly after which Black Bess " tottered — fell. There 
was a dreadful gasp — a parting moan — a snort ; her eye 
gazed for an instant on her master with a dying glare ; 
then grew palsied, rayless, fixed. A shiver also ran 
through her frame." And there was an end of the 
celebrated ride to York. And I hope that those who 
can believe in it will. 

And now I come to a less legendary side of my 
subject. Turpin has taken us to York : and faster than 
we could have gone there in the Coaching Age — faster 
a good deal — but he has not stopped for us at any of 
the inns, and to one or two of these inns on the great 
North Road I wish particularly to introduce my readers. 
For they are hostelries in the true sense of the word, 
and call up even now I know not what coloured 



THE YORK ROAD 



323 



reminiscences of the full life of the Coaching Age — 
reminiscences, of the late arrival of fagged travellers 
on snowy nights before ample porches, their induction 
thence, their immediate induction half frozen as they 
were, into snug parlours adorned with prints of coaches 
at full gallop, revealed by the light of a fire blazing 
half-way up the chimney ; — reminiscences too of table 
comforts considered prodigious in these degenerate days 
— with good liquor to round the story, and a dreamless 
sleep between lavender-scented sheets. 




The George, Stamford. 



The scenes of such comfortable hours spent by an- 
cestors long since buried, still throng the now almost 
deserted reaches of the Great North Road ; and some 
of these old inns, situated in places through which the 
northern railways pass, still live, careless of the changed 
condition of things, and tender the same hospitality to 
passengers alighting from the Great Northern Railway, 
as they used to tender in days gone by to passengers 
alighting from the Great York and Edinburgh Mail. 
At Stamford, for instance, the George still stands where 

Y 2 



324 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



it stood, though with main entrance altered — a huge 
reservoir in itself (had its record been in some way or 
other preserved) of a whole sea of travel continually 
ebbing and flowing between the Metropolis and the 
North. Royalty itself was entertained at this house in 
the person of Charles the First. The King slept here 
on his way from Newark to Huntingdon on August 23, 
1645. And besides royalty, who, I should like to know, 




Stamford Town. 

can tell the list of its distinguished guests in all branches 
of all the arts, either of war or peace ? Walter Scott 
was frequently at this house on those numerous jaunts 
of his up to London, when he was a welcome guest 
at the Prince's table — a valiant bottle companion and 
entrancing raconteur — always the same genial, kindly 
gentleman of genius, though not known yet as the author 



THE YORK ROAD 325 

of surely the most delightful novels in the world. To 
pass from the pen to the sword, at this house stayed the 
Butcher of Culloden on his way up to London : and I 
do not doubt that the George's best Burgundy flowed in 
red seas down fierce gullets in loyal celebration of that 
shameful shamble. But, as I have said in another place, 
the list of distinguished visitors at such great hostelries 
on the main roads of England, must be looked for in 
the letters and diaries of four generations. All were 
here, we may be well assured, at such noted halting- 
places on the main artery of travel between two countries 
— all and of every rank, in a motley assemblage of con- 
fused travel — kings, queens, statesmen, highwaymen 
(the North Road about Stamford was celebrated for these 
gentry), generals, poets, wits, fine ladies, conspirators, 
and coachmen. All were in such houses as this George 
at Stamford at one time or other in the centuries, and 
ate and drank, and robbed, or were robbed, and died, 
and made merry. 

But if so much can be said, and indeed it is no ex- 
aggeration to say so much about the inn at Stamford, 
the great inn at Grantham twenty miles further north 
should be able to claim even a fuller tide of story. For 
the celebrated Angel at the latter place, now much 
resorted to by hunting men and women who can start 
from its doors to meet about four packs of hounds, is 
nothing more nor less than one of the three mediaeval 
hostels remaining in England. And this means a good 
deal if one comes to think of it. It means, indeed, the 
survival of the best kind of thing in its way to be seen. 
For a very superlative kind of comfort was needed, I 
surmise, after however brief an experience of mediaeval 
roads. And if what inns there were between London 
and York, when people had to ride the whole distance 
over often impassable morasses, had not been A I, 
people would not have ridden so frequently between 
York and London. 

To give an idea of the age of the Angel at Grantham 



326 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 




The Angel, Grantham. 

(to come to details), the Knights Templars are supposed 
to have been at the foundation of the whole affair. This 



THE YORK ROAD 327 

however I think is an allegory — but what is quite certain 
about the place is that it was undoubtedly one of those 
Maisons dn Roi, as they were called., which in days gone 
by, when the roads still had life in them, were placed at 
the special service of kings and their retinues as they 
passed here and there through England on royal pro- 
gresses or quelling insurrections. Perhaps indeed as 
well-known an historical event as can be chronicled — 
(not an important historical event because they are as a 
rule not well known) — took place in the three fine sitting 
rooms, which were then one room, over the entrance 
gateway of this celebrated inn. For here, on October 
19th, 1485, Richard the Third signed the death-warrant 
of the Duke of Buckingham. This in itself is an appe- 
tizing fact to an imaginative traveller. It is not often I 
fancy that one can smoke the pipe of peace under a floor 
which creaked four hundred years ago to the unequal 
strides of a hunchbacked and irritable king. I thought 
I heard Richard's voice myself when I was last at Grant- 
ham, and the beautiful moulding in the oriel window of 
the Angel smoking-room gave life to the illusion. 

It will be seen then perhaps from what I have said, 
that at Stamford and Grantham are two as fine speci- 
mens of the old hostelries of the great roads of England as 
can be found, which, fed as they are by great lines of rail- 
way, keep a generous life throbbing in their old hearts still. 
But whether the inns at Grantham and Stamford are as 
representative of the Coaching Age in its prime, as I 
suppose them to be, or no, it is very certain that no 
place more representative of the " Coaching Age 
Decayed," than Stilton, is to be found on Earth. 

For here the Great Northern Railway has diverged 
from the line of the old road, and by doing so has turned 
a vast coaching emporium into a corpse of a town — if 
town indeed Stilton could by any stretch of language 
ever have been called. It was rather, in its best days, 
a village clustering about two magnificent inns, the 
Angel and the Bell, which still stare at each other stonily 



3*8 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



across the Great North Read. At the Angel, well known 
in the coaching days as the house of the famed Miss 
Worthington (stout, smiling, the christener of Stilton 
cheeses made miles away, but so called because they were 
sold at her hospitable door), over 300 horses were stabled 
for coaching and posting purposes. Vast barracks indeed 
stretching at the back of the old house — one wing of 
which alone is now open to travellers — tell of the bustle 

of post-boys, of 
the hurrying to 
and fro of fidgety 
passengers over 
eager to be off, the 
harnessing and 
unharnessing of 
horses, of all the 
many-voiced Babel 
of travel in fact 
which fifty years 
ago surged and 
swayed round this 
teeming coaching 
centre, now lying 
silent and deserted 
as the grave. I am 
told — and from its 
central position on 
the great North 
Road seventy-five 
miles from London 
I can well understand the fact— that at Stilton in 
the old days the ebb and flow of traffic never 
ceased. All day coaches and postchaises continually 
poured into the place and out of it. And by night the 
great mails running from John o' Groat's almost, into 
the heart of London, thundered through the splendid 
broad thoroughfare, visible mediums as it were of an 
empire's circulation. And other wayfarers besides 




Oriel Window in The Angel, Grantham. 



THE YORK ROAD 329 

postillions and coachmen seemed never off the road — 
huge flocks of geese destined for the London market, 
and travelling the seventy-five miles with uncommon 
ease; enormous droves of oxen, not such roadsters born. 
Each beast was indeed thrown and shod at Stilton to 
enable them to bear the journey. And to show the 
huge press even of this kind of traffic, this business 
of shoeing oxen was a trade almost in itself, as I have 
been told by the present landlord of the Angel Inn, who 
used in his youth to do the office himself, and to whose still 
active memory I am indebted for most of the foregoing 
details. 

And to cross the road (the breadth of the great North 
Road at Stilton at once seizes the imagination, it is royal, 
the breadth of it, and looks like the artery of a nation), 
to cross the road from the Angel, and to come to the 
Angel's great rival, the Bell, is to bridge a whole period 
in the history of English travel ; to pass in twenty yards 
from the age of crack coaches and spicy teams to times 
long antecedent, when Flying Machines were not ; when 
the great roads were hazily marked over desolate heathy 
tracks ; when men travelled on horseback and women 
rode pillion, and people only felt secure when they went 
in large companies ; when solitary travellers went in fear 
of their lives when the gloaming overtook them, and 
" spurred apace to reach the timely inn." 

The date of Charles the First's execution is to be seen 
on one of the gables of the Bell. But this dream in 
stone must date far further back than 1649 (when no 
doubt a slight restoration was here commemorated), must 
date far back I should say into the early days of the 
Tudors ; must have seen much of the gorgeous life of 
that period of pageant pass and repass its hospitable 
doors. There is an inn at Tuxford, sixty-two miles 
further on the road to York, which stands on the site of 
an old house called the Crown, which must very greatly 
have resembled the Bell at Stilton. I make mention of 
it here because some of the Crown's history has been 



33° 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



preserved, and the Bell must have had as full and very 
similar a record. To this Crown then at Tuxford (it 
was destroyed by a violent tempest in 1587) came 
Margaret Tudor on her journey to the north. " She was 
met by the vicar and churchmen near where the rebel 
stone is now standing, the bells rang merrily till 
midnight, and large fires kept burning in the market- 




Courtyard of the Bell, Stilton. 

place." The Virgin Queen slept in the room over the 
south-east angle, and proceeded on her journey on the 
early morning of July 12th, 1503. All the neighbours 
of the place came in on horseback, and a great train of 
persons on foot to sec the Queen at her departure from 
the town. These all fell into the procession and the 
minstrels commenced their avocations and ''played right 



THE YORK ROAD 



33* 



merrily." Having descended the hill, they again with 
difficulty began to ascend. The road at that period was 
anything but a road, and but barely passable even at 
that period of the year. Having arrived at the summit, 




Can 1 have a night's lodging f ' 



the towers of Lincoln Minster presented their noble 
proportions in the distance, whereupon honour was done 
to this ancient temple of Jehovah. The whole cortege 
stopped as with one 'consent, and Johannes and his 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



company, the minstrels of music, and the trumpeters 
again made the welkin ring with their notes of praise, 
and the thanksgiving of the goodly company. Passing 
down the hill onward to Markham Moor (then consisting 
of only a few thatched cottages scattered here and there) 
the procession left what is now the route of the Great 
North Road, and proceeded through West Drayton, up 
to near Ecksley, the bells of which church merrily 




The Sign of the Bell, Stilton. 



welcomed the daughter of the King of England. Pass- 
ing slowly and heavily across the forest on the Old 
London Road, the cavalcade arrived at Rushey Inn, then 
a noted resting-place for travellers, and an agreeable 
retreat from the gnats and flies, which then infested the 



THE YORK ROAD 



333 



ling, gorse and furze on each side the margin of the road 
as far as the eye could reach. In due course Margaret 
Tudor arrived in Edinburgh, August 2nd, and was 
married August 8th, 1503. 

Here is a picture of mediaeval travel such as I think 
must have often been witnessed from the windows of 
such old houses of entertainment as the Bell at Stilton, 
when the Tudors ruled England. And often sterner 
episodes of history must have passed beneath its mag- 
nificent copper sign than wedding processions of royal 
princesses, even in those days, when England was called 
merry, and was merry England indeed. During the year 




The Bell, Stilton. 

1536 the Bell at Stilton was no doubt often visited- by 
one of those medley cavalcades so common at the time, 
consisting of abbots in full armour, waggon-loads of 
victuals, oxen and sheep, and a banner borne by a retainer 
on which was worked a plough, a chalice and a Host, a 
horn, and the five wounds of Christ — the well-known 
badge which marked the fiery course of the Pilgrimage 
of Grace. This great rising which began in Lincolnshire 
ran much of its course along the Great North Road — 
who knows how much of it passed through the now- 
deserted rooms and corridors of the great Northern inns 
such as this Bell at Stilton ! It was in an inn at Lincoln 



334 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

at all events that on a night of October there was present 
a gentleman of Yorkshire whose name (Robert Aske) a 
few weeks later was ringing through every English house- 
hold in accents of terror or admiration. 

But indeed standing before such a monument of days 
gone by as this is, it is not a question of this or that 
romantic episode rising to a fanciful man's mind as the 
pageant of a whole nation's history passing in a sort of 
ghostly procession. And what episode of that pageant, 
or of such part of it at all events as passed on the Great 
North Road, has not this great deserted house of enter- 
tainment seen, fed, sheltered within its now crumbling 
walls ? Gallants of Elizabeth's day, Cavaliers of Charles 
the First's, Ironsides on their way to Marston Moor, 
Restoration Courtiers flying from the Plague. And in 
days more modern, King's messengers spurring to London 
with the tidings of Culloden — and Cumberland himself 
fresh from his red victory, and the long line of Jacobite 
prisoners passing in melancholy procession, their arms 
pinioned behind them, each prisoner's horse led by a 
foot soldier carrying a musket with fixed bayonet ; each 
division preceded by a troop of horse with drawn swords, 
the drums insulting the unhappy prisoners by beating a 
triumphal march in derision. 

Why, scenes beyond number such as these must have 
passed before the long gabled front of this old Bell at 
Stilton ; passed, faded, been succeeded by hundreds more 
stirring, which in their turn too vanished like some half- 
remembered dream. And the old house still seems to 
keep some mysterious memory of these scenes locked in 
its old withered heart ; as gaunt, ghost-like, deserted, 
but half alive, it stares night and day on the lonely North 
Road. 




A Quaint Bay, Si. Albans. 



VII.— THE HOLYHEAD ROAD. 

The history of the New and Direct Road to Holyhead 
by St. Albans, Redbourn, Dunstable, Brick-hill, Tow- 
cester, Dunchurch, Coventry, Birmingham, and thence to 
Shrewsbury, begins, as I read its record, two hundred 
years before the Holyhead Mail showed fair claim to be 
one of the fastest coaches in England, or the Shrewsbury 
Wonder's supreme punctuality regulated the watches of 
dwellers on the roadside. It is true that in November, 
1605, roads as we now understand them did not exist ; 
but this same route, or at all events tracks across unin- 
closed heaths, even then connected the above-mentioned 
places with each other and the capital, and marked the 



336 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

shortest way for those riding post to reach Northampton- 
shire, or the counties beyond its borders. 

Early then in the November of 1605, certain elaborate 
preparations which had been made for rapid travelling 
between London and Dunchurch, eighty miles down 
in Warwickshire, was the common talk of ostlers and 
loafers at the chief posting-houses at St. Albans, 
Dunstable, Towcester, and Daventry. At each of these 
places a Mr. Ambrose Rookwood, a young Catholic 
gentleman of fortune, well known on the road for his 
splendid horses, had placed heavy relays. The heaviness 
of these relays excited continual discussion. The con- 
fused rumour of the tap-room, fed by chance travellers 
on the road, decreed presently that these heavy relays 
were to carry Mr. Ambrose Rookwood down to a great 
hunting party, to be shortly assembled at Dunsmoor. 
But when this hunting party was to take place, no one 
seemed to know, or why the young Catholic gentleman 
should have made such elaborate preparations to reach 
it so hurriedly. 

And so the few intervening days passed till the 5th of 
November, 1605, dawned grayly over London — amidst 
torrents of driving rain and wild gusts of a west wind 
which had gathered strength as the night waned, and by 
daylight had grown into a hurricane — dawned on a city 
distracted. Narrow streets were already crowded with 
excited groups, who whispered, gesticulated, at street 
corners. Some men but half dressed rushed from their 
houses as if the rumour of some monstrous imminent 
doom had startled them suddenly from sleep. Others 
with drawn swords in their hands counselled all men to 
arm in one breath, and, as now and again a woman's 
shriek rose above the press cried in another, that there 
was no cause for fear. Consternation was everywhere, 
—but no fixed rumour prevailed. Only each man eyed 
his neighbour suspiciously, only a vague feeling as of 
some nightmare had seized upon London that the past 
darkness had brought forth a portent. 



THE HOLYHEAD ROAD 



337 



In the dim twilight of that November dawn Mr. 
Ambrose Rookwood, the young Catholic gentleman, 
whose relays of fine horses had excited such discussion 
on the North-western Road — came out into these dis- 




At the Stable Door. 



tracted streets, in company with a friend — one Mr. 
Thomas Winter. The two gentlemen walked aimlessly 
here and there for some time, listening attentively to all 
that was said on all sides, now joining themselves to a 
group and adding questions on their own part, to the 

Z 



338 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



sort of universal interrogatory which prevailed — now 
shuddering and passing on their way quickly as the 
unformed phantom of the people's fear began to grow 
gradually into defined shape. Then, as if fearful any 
longer of uncertainty, they made with extraordinary 
coolness towards the Parliament House. 

The sun had not yet risen ; but in the middle of King 




Saddling up. 

Street, Westminster, the two found a guard standing. 
Permission to pass was peremptorily refused. Then as 
Mr. Rookwood's friend stood parleying with the guard a 
white-faced citizen passed by hurriedly, exclaiming in 
panic-stricken tones, " There is treason discovered ! 
And the king and lords should have been blown up." 
The two gentlemen turned without a word, and made 



THE HOLYHEAD ROAD 339 

for their horses. The heavy relays on the North-Western 
Road were now to be put to their proper use. But great 
caution had to be exercised. The appalling news had 
circulated in the city with the rapidity of poison. 
Barricades were being hastily erected at the ends of the 
streets ; passengers were being stopped and questioned ; 
any appearance of hurry would have led to instant 
arrest. It was eleven o'clock therefore before the two 
gentlemen got clear of London — and they were but just 
in time : for rumours were already in the air of a 
proclamation forbidding anybody to leave the town for 
three days. Once clear of London they rode desperately. 

Few incidents I think in history seize the imagination 
so forcibly as that wild flight of the Gunpowder Con- 
spirators northward. Thomas Winter made for his 
brother's house at Huddington in Worcestershire ; but 
Rookwood rode fiercely down the North- Western Road 
to bear the fatal news to the conspirators already 
assembling on Dunsmoor. Catesby, Piercy, John and 
Christopher Wright were he knew on the road in front. 
But the relays already placed for him, and the desperate 
fear which urged him forwards enabled Rookwood to over- 
take the others as they were rising the ascent at Brickhill. 

In a few words he told them what had happened in 
London — that Fawkcs had been arrested and lodged in 
the Tower — that at any moment torture might make 
him give up their names — that the whole scheme had 
fallen through, and that their only chance of safety lay 
in instantly joining their friends. From this moment the 
flight became a stampede. " They devoured the ground," 
shouting as they rode through startled towns and villages 
that they were carrying despatches from the King to 
Northampton, flinging off their large cloaks, heavy with 
the rain that still poured remorselessly, that they might 
add wings even to their precipitate flight. Rookwood 
rode thirty miles in two hours on one horse. At six in 
the evening the fugitives arrived at Catesby 's house at Ash- 
by St. Legers, about three miles from Daventry. They 
had ridden the eighty miles from London in seven hours. 



34° 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



Here after a brief consultation with Robert Winter, 
who was staying in the house (it still stands in all its 
gloomy suggestiveness, this home of England's most 
desperate conspirator), they rode off hastily on the same 
tired horses to join Sir Everard Digby and the pretended 
hunting gathering on Dunsmoor Heath which the direct 




~W 



CaUsby's House, Ashby-St.-I*eger. 

road to Holyhead still crosses at the eighty-fifth mile- 
stone from London. 

Their further wild course through Warwickshire to 
Holbeach on the Staffordshire border calls here for no 
telling, as it is no longer associated with the Road. But so 
intimately associated with the Gunpowder Treason does 
the way to Holyhead seem that though its history is 



THE HOLYHEAD ROAD 



34' 



closed so far as the directest route is concerned, the 
earlier route by Chester has another link to add to its 
story. A short distance from Newport Pagnell (fifty- 
one miles from London), stands Gayhurst, — the fine 
Elizabethan house once the home of Sir Everard Digby. 
Of him a sympathetic historian writes, " His youth, his 
personal graces, the constancy which he had exhibited 
whilst he believed himself a martyr in a good cause, the 
deep sorrow which he testified on becoming sensible of 
his error, seem to have moved all hearts with pity and 
even admiration ; and if so detestable a villainy as the 
Gunpowder Plot may be permitted to have its hero 
Everard Digby was undoubtedly the man." 

The gray walls of his beautiful Buckinghamshire home 
were indeed witnesses at all events of some of the most 
suggestive incidents in the heart-quaking scheme. 
Fawkes was a frequent guest here — meditating through 
the prolonged rains which heralded the approach of the 
destined day, on the state of the powder, by now safely 
placed under the Parliament House ; riding to and fro 
frequently from London ; often an unexpected, always a 
welcome guest. From Gayhurst, besides, set out that 
Pilgrimage to St. Winifred's well, in Flintshire, the 
motive of which was so much discussed after the 
discovery of the Conspiracy. Motives apart however, 
what is more important from my point of view is that 
the company of about thirty persons — all relations of 
the conspirators ; some of the actual conspirators among 
these, travelled in coaches — proceeded by Daventry to 
John Grant's house at Norbrook, a fine, melancholy, 
moated manor once (where is it now ? ), thence to 
Robert Winter's, at Huddington, and so to Flintshire 
by Shrewsbury. 

The fact that the pilgrims travelled in coaches brings 
me by quite a natural stage from the historical to the 
coaching side of the Holyhead Road. And it was from 
all I can learn the coaching road par excellence. Cele- 
brated, thanks to the immortal Tclfcrd, for its 260 miles 
of superb surface, so masterfully laid down that, though 



342 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



the last 107 miles from Shrewsbury to Holyhead ran 
through mountainous country, no horse was obliged to 




walk, unless he particularly wished it, between Holyhead 
and London ; celebrated too for its coachmen, a long 
list of historic names shining calmly through many a 



THE HOLYHEAD ROAD 



343 



story of poles snapped ; coaches over-turned in the 
twinkling of an eye; runaway teams nearing closed toll- 
bars ; desperate races for a slight pre-eminence, ending 
in desperate collisions ; celebrated consequently and 
finally for its time records, which never were beaten. 

Not even on the Exeter Road by the Quicksilver or 
the Telegraph. For though the former covered the 175 
miles between London and Exeter in eighteen hours, and 




Through the TollGaU. 



though the latter covered the 165 miles in seventeen 
hours, yet on the Holyhead Road, the Holyhead Mail, 
which ran through Shrewsbury, was timed at ten miles 
and a half an hour through the whole journey, including 
stoppages ; while the celebrated Wonder did the 158 
miles between London and Shrewsbury in fifteen hours 
and three quarters ; and the Manchester Telegraph, 
travelling some distance at all events on the Holyhead 



344 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



Road, did the 186 miles in eighteen hours eighteen 
minutes, leaving the Bull and Mouth at five in the 
morning, reaching the Peacock, Islington, at 5.15, and 
Northampton at 8.40, where, according to Mr. Stanley 
Harris, twenty minutes were allowed to eat as much as 
you could, with tea or coffee (of course too hot to drink). 

And I think that the performances of these last 
two coaches are so remarkable that I cannot emphasize 
them more firmly than by here subjoining their re- 
spective time-bills ; voiceless proclamations these of great 
feats in the past, pasted long since most of them into 
the scrap-books of old-fashioned travel, or hanging in 
melancholy neglect and astounding frames on the smoke- 
begrimed walls of once celebrated posting houses. 

Here then is the time-bill of the Wonder coach from 
London to Shrewsbury : — 



Despatched from Bull and Mouth at 6.30 morning. 
,, ,, Peacock, Islington, at 6.45 o'clock. 



Proprietor. 


Place. 


Miles. 


Time 
Allowed. 


Should 
Arrive. 


Sherman ... 
J. Liley 

Goodyear .... 
Sheppard .... 

Evans 

H. L Taylor . . . 
J. Taylor .... 


St. Albans 
Redboum . . 

(Breakfast) 
Dunstable . . 
Daventry . 
Coventry . . 

(Business) 
Birmingham . 

(Dinner) 
Wolverhamptor 

(Business) . 
Summerhousc 
Shifnal . . 
Haygate . . 
Shrewsbury . 


1 




22i 

4* 
8* 

19 
19 
14 

64 

6* 

8 
10 


H. M. 

2 3 

O 25 
O 20 

48 

2 54 

1 47 

5 

1 39 

35 

1 15 
5 
35 
35 
43 
56 


8.48 
9- 13 

10.21 

2.15 
4.2 

5 46 

7-36 

8.16 

851 

9-34 

10.30 








153 


i5 45 



THE HOLYHEAD ROAD 



345 



And here the time-bill of the Manchester Tele- 
graph :— 



Leave Bull and Mouth 


at 5 a.m. 








,, Peacock, Islington 


a'5-15- 






Proprietor. 


Place. 


Miles. 


Time 
Allowed. 


Should 
Arrive. 








II. M. 




Sherman . . 


St. Albans . . 


I9i 


I 54 


7-9 


Liley ... 


Redbourn . 


4i 


O 22 


7-3i 


Fossey . . . 


Ilockliffe 

Northampton . . . 


12^ 


I IO 


8.41 




(Breakfast) 


— 


O 20 


— 


Shaw . . 


Harboro' .... 
Leicester . . 


47i 


4 30 


,3. 




(Business) . . 


— 


5 




Pettifer .... 


Loughboro' . 
Derby 


26 


2 27 


4-3 




(Dinner) .... 


— . 


O 20 


- ■ 




Ashbourne 


30 


2 48 


7. 1 1 


Wood 


Waterhouses . . 


7i 


43 


7-54 


Linlev .... 


Bullock Smithy 


*9h 


2 46 


10.40 


Wetherall & Co. 


Manchester . 


9 


O 50 


11.3a 


186 


18 15 



Desperate travelling this ! But by no means repre- 
senting solitary records of sustained speed on these fine 
North-Western Roads. By no means. For the Mail 
to Holyhead vid Chester (the old route), though not keep- 
ing the same pace as the Mail from London to Holyhead 
vid Shrewsbury, still did its nine miles and a half an hour, 
including stoppages, travelling on not nearly such good 
roads too, and by night ; while on May Day, 1830 (May 
Day being the great day for coaches to race against time, 
some of them with that object in view carrying no pas- 
sengers), the Independent Tallyho, running between 
London and Birmingham, covered the 109 miles in 



346 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 




Saracen's Head. St. Albatu. 



THE HOLYHEAD ROAD 347 

seven hours thirty minutes — a feat which altogether 
beats the record in Coaching Annals ; though on May- 
Day, 1838, "the Shrewsbury Greyhound came a good 
second by travelling the 153 miles two furlongs at the 
rate of twelve miles an hour, including stoppages. 
And as an irreproachable coaching authority repre- 
sents that eleven miles an hour, including stoppages, 
stands for galloping at least the greater part of the way, 
an easy calculation may be made as to what extent the 
coachmen of the Tallyho " sprung their cattle." 

Flying Machines these, indeed ! Of a different kind 
though to those which in the year of Grace 1742 had 
already made the North-Western Roads famous for head- 
long speed, when the Oxford Machine used to leave 
London at 7 A.M. (the weather, Providence, and a variety 
of other factors permitting), arrived at Uxbridge (fourteen 
miles seven furlongs) from Tyburn Turnpike at midday, 
and at High Wycombe (twenty-eight miles seven fur- 
longs) at 5 P.M., where they inned for the night, and 
proceeded desperately to Oxford next morning. Nor 
when George the Second was king was the Manchester 
Telegraph of 1836 without a prototype. For it came 
to pass in 1754 that a company of Manchester merchants, 
having considered how Time flew, and to what a degree 
the success or non-success of commercial speculation 
coincided with the flight of Time, bethought them how 
most nearly in their passage to and from London they 
might fly themselves. To which end they started a new 
sensation called a " Flying Coach." And they carefully 
put forward in a well-weighed prospectus the claims of 
their invention to the title, stating that there was no non- 
sensical pretence about the thing this time, but that in 
point of honest fact they seriously contemplated running 
their machine at the accelerated speed of five miles an 
hour ; and that however incredible it might appear, the 
coach would actually, barring accidents, arrive in London 
four days and a half after leaving Manchester ! 



348 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

To set out ourselves on the roads on which these pro- 
digies were perpetrated, it may be well to state at this 
point that there were three routes to Holyhead in the 
prime of the coaching days ; firstly, the direct and old 
road, vid Chester, and measured from Hicks's Hall, going 
vid Barnet, St. Albans, Dunstable, Hockliffe, Woburn, 
Newport Pagnell, Northampton, Hinckley, Tamworth, 
Rugeley, Nantwich, and Chester ; secondly, the road 
measured from Tyburn Turnpike, and going vid Southall, 
Uxbridge, Beaconsfield, High Wycombe, Oxford, Wood- 
stock, Chapel House, Shipston, Stratford-on-Avon, Hcn- 
ley-in-Arden, and Birmingham ; and, thirdly, the new 
road (" new old " though, as it turns out) vid Barnet, St. 
Albans, Dunstable, Brickhill, Stony Stratford, Towcester, 
Daventry, Dunsmoor, Coventry, Birmingham, and thence 
to Shrewsbury, as route No. 2, vid Wednesbury, Wol- 
verhampton, Shifnal, Haygate, and Atcham. 

It was this latter route which was taken by the Wonder, 
the Holyhead Mail, and other crack coaches ; and it is 
on this route that I purpose to travel, permitting myself 
as heretofore the graceful license of running off it, on to 
one of its branches, whenever the desirability of a change 
suggests itself, or an anecdote or an accident calls for 
diversion. 

And the accidents on the North- Western Road begin 
early ; before, indeed, it branches from the Great North 
Road, which it does, or did, at Barnet Pillar (the stone 
put up to commemorate the celebrated battle), six fur- 
longs beyond Barnet town. But as I say the first 
casualty to be noticed on the North- Western Road oc- 
curred before this spot is reached, so near to London 
indeed as Finchley Common (which is about a mile and 
a half beyond Highgatc Archway), though the cause of 
the accident, the first cause, originated at a place called 
Redbourn, twenty-one miles down the road. And in 
this wise : Owing to an obstruction below Dunstable — in 
point of fact to heavy snow-drifts — four or five coaches 



THE HOLYHEAD ROAD 



349 




i ft v 



Courtyard of the Georgt, St. Albans. 



started together thence. They all went at a fair pace, 
not racing, but passing each other at the different stages, 



350 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

till they reached the Green Man at Finchley, where ac- 
cording to immemorial prescription the four coachmen 
alighted for a drink, or rather for four. And now " a 
change came o'er the spirit of the scene." In other 
words, one " Humpy," so called either from his driving 
the Umpire (but I hope not) or from his having a hump 
on his back, which is more probable, was discovered to 
have taken too much spirits. For he was very noisy and 
shouted and hallooed at the top of his voice, though at 
what it is impossible to conjecture. However, the old 
coachman who tells the story (the same who, it may be 
remembered, upset his coach when driving on the 
Portsmouth Road, with a noise like the report of a 
cannon, and had consequently gained caution from 
experience), the old coachman, I say, suspected that 
something would happen. So he kept behind, and 
waited to see what he would sec. He first of all saw 
one of the three coaches by a fence opposite a public- 
house (no uncommon spectacle on the roads, I fancy). 
But what did he next see when he arrived himself at the 
public-house (sign, the Bald-faced Stag) ? Why, he saw 
a coach lying on its side — the Manchester Umpire in fact 
— the coach of the too demonstrative Humpy. And 
things were pretty considerably mixed up with the 
Manchester Umpire. The forepart of the coach was 
broken, the luggage was scattered all over the road, also 
the passengers, who, thus agreeably circumstanced, im- 
proved the shining hour by bewailing their bruises and 
cursing the conduct of Humpy. This was rather un- 
chivalrous of them, as it turned out, thus to rail against 
the unfortunate ; for Humpy was also on his back, per- 
fectly helpless, " like a large black beetle," moaning and 
groaning most hideously, and certainly more injured than 
anybody else. He had indeed, with a curiously misdi- 
rected ingenuity, upset the coach upon himself, and 
materially injured his hip-joint. From Humpy himself 
therefore no explanation of how things had occurred was 
naturally forthcoming. But there were not wanting men 



THE HOLYHEAD ROAD 



35> 




The George and Red Lion, St. Album. 



unkind enough to allege that this complete turnover re- 
sulted from no more intricate a fact than that of the 
miserable Humpy having his leaders' reins wrongly 



352 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

placed between his fingers, which was done when he 
took them from his box-passenger, after the last, 
the fatal, brandy and water. The natural but very 
embarrassing consequence was, that when Humpy 
suddenly discovered that he was too near the fence, 
he pulled the wrong rein, and there they were — on their 
backs in the road. 

A more serious accident than this, inasmuch as one of 
the unfortunate passengers was killed, happened to the 
Holyhead Mail, a little further down the road, a mile 
indeed on the London side of St. Albans. This arose 
from the exciting but highly dangerous pastime of racing. 
The Holyhead Mail, via Shrewsbury, attempted to pass 
the Chester Mail by galloping furiously by on the 
wrong side of the road. The coachman of the Chester 
Mail resented the indignity, and pulled his leaders 
across his rival's — a heap of stones conveniently placed 
by the roadside did the rest of the business, and in a 
moment converted two spick-and-span turn-outs, full 
of passengers more or less alive and alarmed, into a mass 
of struggling horseflesh, splintered wood and groaning 
wounded. The inquest on the victim of this rivalry 
among coachmen was held at the Peahen Inn in St. 
Albans, and a verdict of manslaughter was returned 
against both artists. Abundant subsequent opportunity 
was afforded them of meditating on their sins, for they 
were kept in irons in St. Albans for six months before 
they were tried at Hertford — in which town they enjoyed 
a further twelve months' imprisonment in the county gaol. 

A snow effect is the next coaching incident to be 
chronicled in this neighbourhood of St. Albans, richer 
surely in its agreeably diversified crop of casualties than 
any other place in England. The North-Western 
coaches at all events seem to have got the full benefit of 
the historic snow-storm of 1836. This visitation lasted 
the best part of a week and has never been equalled in 
England before or since. The drifts in some hollows 
were said to be twenty feet deep — which caused some 



THE HOLYHEAD ROAD 353 

passengers not unnaturally to report that they were 
" mountains high," and some coachmen to state that the 
snow in some places was higher than their heads as they 
sat on the box. " Never before," writes a correspondent 
of the Times of that day (quoted by Captain Malet in 
his Annals of the Road) — "never before within recollec- 
tion was the London Mail stopped for a whole night at 
a few miles from London, and never before have we seen 
the intercourse between the southern shores of England 
and the metropolis interrupted for two whole days." In 
spite of which assertion I read a few sentences on " that 
the roads leading to Portsmouth and Poole were the 
only ones kept open during the storm ! " Yet Ports- 
mouth and Poole are on the " southern shores of England " 
surely, — and this is but one instance of the incurable 
slovenliness which marks the compilation of so much of 
coaching history — and makes the truth-seeker ask what 
is truth, and wonder where he has got to. 

For the present however we are at St. Albans, where 
during the prevalence of this great snowstorm of 1836, 
many mails and coaches remained hopelessly stuck, able 
neither to get up the road nor down it — a state of affairs 
which must have caused many passengers to use strange 
words, and the landlords of the Angel, White Hart, and 
Woolpack to make hay while the snow fell. And some 
people were not so fortunate as to be stuck fast in a 
picturesque place where there was something to eat, as 
Burdctt, the guard of the Liverpool Mail, was able to 
testify. For on Tuesday, December 27, of this memor- 
able year, this guard from his vantage point, beheld a 
chariot buried in the snow and without horses, safely at 
anchor at about a mile on the London side of St. Albans. 
And he had no sooner seen it — and two elderly ladies 
inside it, who rent the welkin with clamorous cries for 
help — than he found, by being suddenly precipitated 
head first into twelve feet of snow, that his coach had 
got into a drift too. Having recovered his perpendicular, 
and emptied his mouth, a natural curiosity prompted 

A A 



354 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



Burdett to cross-examine the ladies on their somewhat 
forlorn position. They told him that their post-boy had 
left them for St. Albans to get fresh cattle, and had 
been gone two hours — no doubt having elected to get 
brandy for himself instead. Meanwhile there they were 
— and in a very deplorable plight surely. But will it be 




OHift V-"^ 



Old Inn, St. Albans. 

believed that this heart-moving vision of beauty in dis- 
tress did not move the guard of the Liverpool Mail in 
the least ! No ! He proceeded stolidly in the plain 
path which is duty's — a fact which tends to the suspicion 
that the ladies cannot have been beauties. But whether 
they were or no, Burdett, after having heard their story, 
turned a deaf ear to their appeals for help. He just 



THE HOLYHEAD ROAD 355 

helped his coachman, his passengers, and his four horses 
on to their feet — (for the horses too had assumed a re- 
cumbent position) — and having extricated his mail, by 
the help of his tools, curses, and other expedients not 
mentioned in the text, pursued his journey to London, 
leaving the chariot and the ladies to their fate. 

Twelve miles further on brought coaches in the old 
days to Dunstable in Bedfordshire, where the Priory 
Church is very fine and interesting, and where the Sugar 
Loaf Inn used to be celebrated for its dinners. Here 
follows a typical menu, to be dealt with in twenty 
minutes — 

"MENU AT THE SUGAR LOAF, DUNSTABLE— 

" A Boiled Round of Beef; a Roast Loin of Pork ; a Roast Aitchbone 
of Beef; and a Boiled Hand of Pork with Peas Pudding and Parsnips ; 
a Roast Goose ; and a Boiled Leg of Mutton." 

It sounds rather formidable; but there were such 
people as trenchermen in the Coaching Days. 

Immediately beyond Dunstable, or, to be quite ac- 
curate, three miles six furlongs beyond it, is Hockliffe, 
immediately west of which place there used to be some 
inconveniently steep hills, greatly calculated to bring 
overladen coaches to grief, but which were cut down, and 
the valleys at the same time raised, when the new mail 
road to Holyhead was opened — improved and shortened 
by the Parliamentary Commissioners. At Hockliffe the 
mail road to Manchester, Liverpool and Chester branched 
off from the direct road to Holyhead vid Shrewsbury ; 
and at Hockliffe, on December 26th, 1836, the Manches- 
ter, Holyhead, Chester and Halifax Mails stuck fast in 
a snowdrift, within snowballing distance of each other 
— all the North-Western Mails, that is to say, at one fell 
swoop. Report says not what happened to the Manches- 
ter and Halifax Mails, so I presume they remained where 
they were till the snow melted ; but an attempt to drag 
the Chester Mail out of the drift with waggon-horses 
ended in the fore axle giving way and the coach being 

A A 2 



356 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



left behind. Upon which the bags were forwarded by a 
post-horse — with a man on his back I presume. As for 
the Holyhead Mail, it was even more awkwardly situated, 
though I confess to not seeing clearly how such a state of 
things could be. However, the horses were almost buried 
in an attempt to pull the coach out of a drift ; and the 



^j 




Porch at Dunstable. 



coachman, with all the hardihood of extreme imbecility, 
venturing himself to alight, disappeared in the twinkling 
of an eye into the drift into which he had alighted. At 
this crisis of affairs a waggon fortunately appeared upon 
this wintry scene — a waggon fortunately also with four 
horses in it. The four horses were at once pressed into the 



THE HOLYHEAD ROAD 357 

service of the Mail, and succeeded after incredible exer- 
tions in getting it out of the hollow in which it was 
sunk. 

The Holyhead Road enters Buckinghamshire at 
Brickhills, seven miles six furlongs further on, and 
forty- five miles from London. 

But I must not leave these forty-five miles behind me 
without noting a curious sight which was often to be 
seen on this stretch from the tops of coaches before the 
legislature forbade the use of dogs as animals of draught. 
This sight was an old pauper, born without legs but with a 
sporting turn of mind. This natural bias led him to 
contrive a small waggon — very light, as may well be 
imagined since it had nothing but a board for the body. 
It was however fitted with springs, lamps and all 
necessary appliances, and was drawn by a new kind of 
team in the form of three fox-hounds harnessed abreast. 

In this flying machine of his own contriving, Old Lai, 
for such was the name of the old pauper born without 
legs — no name having been given him by his Godfathers 
and Godmothers at his baptism — Old Lai used to make 
the most terrific times. His team were well matched in 
size and pace, cleverly harnessed, and he dashed coaches 
making even their twelve miles an hour like the shot out 
of a gun, and with a slight cheer of encouragement to 
his team ; but not in any spirit of insolence or defiance, 
as Captain M. E. Haworth (who in his Road Scrapings 
has preserved this episode of the North-Western Road) 
is careful to tell us, but merely to urge the hounds to 
their pace. 

This pace in the end proved fatal to Old Lai, after 
having lived for many years on the alms of passengers 
by coaches between the Peacock at Islington and the 
Sugar Loaf at Dunstable. For one winter, when ac- 
cording to the ostler of the Sugar Loafs version, " the 
weather was terrible rough, there was snow and hice, 
and the storm blowed down a-many big trees, and them 
as stood used to 'oiler and grunt up in the Pine Bottom 



358 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



so that he'd heerd folks say that the fir-trees was a-rub- 
bing themselves against one another " — one such winter 
as this Old Lai had not been seen for three weeks. 
This fact did not cause any anxiety to his friend the 
ostler. But one Sunday afternoon, when he had " four 







Old Inn, now Farmhouse, Brickhills. 



o'clocked his horses " and was putting a sack over his 
shoulders preparatory to going down to his cottage, who 
should come up to him but one Trojan — a fox-hound 
and a respected member of Old Lai's team. The fact 
that Trojan had part of his harness on, set the ostler 



THE HOLYHEAD ROAD 359 

thinking that he had cut and run, and that perhaps he 
had left Old Lai in trouble. 

This supposition proved correct ; but it was never 
believed that old Trojan was the cause of Old Lai being 
found dead on the side of the road some distance off 
his waggon, which was found stuck fast between two fir- 
trees, with one of the hounds still in harness lying dead 
beside it. No ! It was believed by the ostler that the 
guilt of Old Lai's death lay at the door of another 
of the dogs — one Rocket, who turned up at the Sugar 
Loaf shortly after the arrival of Trojan. For this 
Rocket, according to the ostler, possessed many traits 
calculated to give rise to suspicion. In the first place, 
he was " a younger and more ramblier dog ; " in the 
second place, " he never settled nowhere ; " and in the 
third place, the last that the ostler heard of him was 
that, " being allers wonderful fond of sport," he had 
joined a pack of Harriers at Luton. " He was kinder 
master of them, frequently collecting the whole pack 
and going a-hunting with them by his self." All three 
which considerations put together induced in the ostler 
the very probable belief that Rocket was the instigator 
of the poor old man's death ; that he (Rocket) must 
have caught a view of a fox, or at any rate have crossed 
a line of scent and bolted off the road and up through 
the wood, and " after he had throwed the old man out 
continued the chase till the waggon got hung fast to 
a tree and tied them all up." The jury, it may be re- 
marked in conclusion, who sat on Old Lai's remains, did 
not rise to this very lucid explanation of the cause of their 
session : for according to the ostler, they contented 
themselves with observing " That Old Lai was a pauper 
wagrant, that he had committed accidental death, and 
the coroner sentenced him to be buried in the parish in 
which he was last seen alive." He was buried in a square 
box accordingly, and the ostler and Trojan the fox-hound 
were the sole assistants at the rite. 

But what of the coachmen on this celebrated coaching 



360 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



road ? More celebrated even than the most celebrated 
of their rivals, it is time that I should make some men- 
tion of them here : of their appearance when in the 
flesh, of their characteristics as artists, of their fate. 
And, to begin with — speaking of coachmen's fate — few I 
should surmise have met a more ignobly ironical one 
from a coachman's point of view than did poor Jack 




Courtyard of the Saracen's Head, Toivctster. 



Matthews who drove the Oak and Nettle coaches from 
Welshpool to Liverpool, which were run in opposition to 
the Holyhead Mail and were often too fast to be safe. 
For poor Jack fell no willing victim to his own indiscretion, 
but was killed — it is with a blush for the departed that I 
write it — in a railway accident. In a foolish moment 
he took it into his head to go to Liverpool for a day's 



THE HOLYHEAD ROAD 361 

outing, in a foolisher moment, if there be such a word, 
he got on a railway which was only half finished. He 
got on to this railway at Wrexham, intending to go as 
far as Chester. This feat the unfinished railway accom- 
plished for him, only however to throw him off a bridge 
(unfinished too, I suppose) when he got there. Well 
may his biographer exclaim, " Poor Jack ! He would 
have been safer driving the Nettle Coach, in all proba- 
bility ! " (which " in all probability " gives us a very fair 
idea of the safety of the Nettle Coach ! But this is a 
digression.) And Jack was as pretty a coachman as 
ever had four horses in hand. " A good workman in all 
respects, smart as a new pin." 

Another celebrated coachman on this road met as sad, 
but more consistent a fate, this was Dick Vickers, who 
drove the Mail between Shrewsbury and Holyhead. He 
fell a victim to agriculture. That is to say that though 
in stature he was so little " that he had to get on to six- 
pennyworth of coppers to look on to the top of a Stilton 
cheese" yet the deluded man pined to be a farmer. 
And he was fond of fishing too, a much more profitable 
pastime. However a farmer Vickers became, in spite of 
his friends' entreaties, who after a reasonable interval of 
anxiety found him sus. per coll. This Vickers, not 
content with the lack of judgment he displayed while on 
earth, is said to haunt the scene of his indiscretion still. 
Though the Mail which he used to drive has long ceased 
to exist, they do say that at times a rumbling is heard — 
and so on. Mr. Birch Reynardson, to get to something 
more tangible about Vickers, knew him well, as he seems 
to have known most of the crack coachmen on the 
Holyhead Road, through Shrewsbury, and has described 
them as well as he knew them in his Doivn the Road. 
The ill-fated Vickers, he writes, was a good little 
fellow, always civil, always sober, always most obliging, 
and a friend of every one along the road. And Mr. 
Reynardson had some opportunity of studying his 
model's characteristics, particularly I should conceive on 



362 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



that one celebrated occasion chronicled, when he sat by 
him on the box-seat and saw him deal with a team 

comprised of the engag- 
ing attributes of " Three 
blind 'uns and a bolter," 
or in the coachman's own 
words " Four horses, but 
they've only got two eyes 
among 'em, and it would 
be quite as well if that 
horse had not any so far 
as I know — for he makes 
shocking bad use of 'em 
at all times I can tell 
you." 

A differently organized 
team was equally success- 
fully coped with by one 
known to fame as Old 
John Scott. He drove 
the Chester and Holyhead 
Mail, and remarked to 
Mr. Reynardson, who was 
using all his art to boil 
up a trot going up Pen- 
maenmawr (thirty - six 
miles from Holyhead), 
"Hit 'em sly— hit 'em 
sly ! " And on being 
asked the reason for this 
dark advice alleged that 
if this particular team 
heard the whip before 
they felt it, they would 
never be got up Penmaen- 
mawr at all. Nor was " hitting 'em sly " with the 
whip the ingenious Old John Scott's sole method of 
dealing on heavy ground with this extremely sticky 




/ 



Fonts Hospital, Coventry. 



THE HOLYHEAD ROAD 363 

lot. No. He was accustomed, when the crisis came, 
and the coach threatened to come to a full stop 
where there was no proper halting place, to play a 
sort of rat-tat-tat with both feet on the foot-board 
— and lo ! the sticky ones sprang up to their collars 
at once, as if the author of all evil was behind them. 
Much exercised by this extraordinary phenomenon, Mr. 
Reynardson with a praiseworthy impulse to arrive at the 
dark truth, remarked, " Well ! that's a curious dodge ! 
What do they think is coming ? " Upon which Old 
John Scott, saying, " Wait a pit, I'll soon let you see 
what they think is coming," — stooped down and pro- 
duced from the boot a most respectable and persuasive 
looking "Short Tommy". This sounds rather like a 
case for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to 
Animals — did we not have it on the best authority that 
Old John Scott was a worthy, good, little, stout-made 
fellow, whose B was sounded like P, and who when he 
said "Shall" pronounced it like Sail. 

An artist of a finer mould was Sam Hayward, who 
drove the Wonder from Shifnal to Shrewsbury (18 miles). 
Not only was he a fine performer on the Road — but he 
did a deed in the usual way of business when he got into 
Shrewsbury which made spectators stare. The Lion 
yard is just on the top of the hill in Shrewsbury, and is 
so placed that to coachmen not demigods, to turn into 
it off a sharpish pitch with a heavy load was to attempt 
the impossible to an accompaniment of breaking poles 
and shrieking passengers. All other coaches coming 
from London went in therefore ignominiously by the back- 
way, though they came out at the usual entrance. Not 
so Sam Hayward on the Wonder. Secure in the know- 
ledge of accomplished strength he smilingly hugged the 
kerbstone on the near side, passed the entrance for a few 
yards — but yards accurately calculated — then described 
a round and imperial circle, and shot in under the arch- 
way a victorious, a classic charioteer. People at first 
thought him mad — I read, when they saw him thus as it 



364 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 




Th4 Rows of ChetUr. 



THE HOLYHEAD ROAD 



365 



were defying the thunder — but they soon saw that he 
knew what he was doing, and could do it. 

Of quite a different type was one Winterbotham — 
who drove the Holyhead Mail four stages out of Holy- 
head and who on one occasion when Mr. Birch Reynard- 
son — the great authority in this part of the world — 
approached the coach, was described to him by the guard 
as being " amazing fresh." " Amazing fresh " is not only 
good in my eyes : it is delicious. And how when 




The Falcon and the Bear, Chester. 

Winterbotham presently put in an appearance did he 
answer to this poetic description ? Why, amazingly. 
" He approached rolling about like a seventy-four in a 
calm ; or as if he were walking with a couple of soda- 
water bottles tied under his feet." The peculiarity of 
this gait, which might have been much appreciated on 
the Metropolitan boards as an eccentric dancer's new 
departure, did not appeal to the teller of this tale as 
prophetic of safety from the box-seat of a crack coach. 
So Winterbotham in all the meridian of his freshness was 



366 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



inclosed, a solitary passenger, in the stuffy inside — and 
Mr. Birch Reynardson himself assumed the ribbons. At 
the change near St. Asaph, sixty miles from Holyhead, 
inquiries were made after Winterbotham's condition. 




/ <& 



The Bear and Billet, Chester 



The Yacht Inn. 



But all. his freshness had deserted the cooped-up 
charioteer! He was however found fairly rational 
though excessively dejected, and expressed himself 
thus on a unique experience — " Well, I think I'd better 



THE HOLYHEAD ROAD 367 

get outside now ! I aren't used to this. Well ! This is 
travelling like a gentleman, and inside the Mail to be 
sure ! Well ! I never travelled inside a Mail or a coach 
before ; and I dare say I never shall again ! I don't 
think I like the inside of a coach much ; and so I'd 
better get out now ! it feels wonderful odd somehow to 
be inside the Mail ; and I really hardly know how I got 
there." 

On the same coach, but further up the road, Dan 
Herbert did his twenty-four miles between Eccleshall and 
Lichfield with two changes, and his twenty- four miles back 
the same day, — an artist perfected in the quiet method, 
driving bad teams punctually without punishing them, 
rather by the medium of fine hands and temper coaxing 
them along. He was upwards of thirty years on the 
Chester and Holyhead Mail, and in consideration of 
his faithful and correct attention to business was 
awarded a scarlet coat on every anniversary of the 
King's birthday. 

And George Clarke was an artist of the same calibre 
and of like style. He took the Umpire at Newport 
Pagnell (fifty-one miles from London), and met the down 
coach at Whetstone returning about nine o'clock. The 
most valuable of servants, because the first coachman in 
England for bad horses. Having always weak horses to 
nurse, the ordeal had worn him down to a pattern of 
patience. With these and other great weights upon 
severe ground, he was steady, easy and economical in 
thong and cord, very light-handed, and sometimes even 
playful ! 

An idyllic description of a great coachman's kind 
qualities this, raising all sorts of pictures to the mind's 
eye of comfortable journeys performed under a master's 
direction with no discomfort to the cattle ; but we enter 
into a wilder, a fiercer atmosphere of travel, when we 
come to consider the great names of John Marchant of 
the Manchester Telegraph, and Bob Snow of the Defiance. 
For these men drove opposition coaches, in which speed 



368 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 




T/te End of the Journey. 



was the one thing looked to. associated in a mild degree 
with a more or less reasonable amount of safety. And 
they drove furiously to beat the record — careful of 



THE HOLYHEAD ROAD 369 

nothing so long as the coach kept on its wheels, demi- 
gods whose steel nerves their passengers implicitly 
trusted, well knowing as they did that if those steel 
nerves had for an instant failed their owners the whole 
stock and lot would have gone to the Deuce in an 
instant. 

It was this sort of fiery opposition kept up between 
the two crack Manchester coaches which called forth 
some such comment as the following, comments con- 
stantly to be culled from contemporary magazines : — 

" Whoever takes up a newspaper in these eventful 
times it is even betting whether an accident by a coach 
or a suicide first meets his eye. Now really as the month 
of November is fast approaching, when from foggy 
weather and dark nights both these calamities are likely to 
increase, I merely suggest the propriety of any unfortunate 
gentleman resolved on self-destruction, trying to avoid 
the disgrace attached to it by first taking a few journeys 
by some of these Dreadnought, Highflyer, or Tally-ho 
coaches ; as in all probability he may meet with as in- 
stant a death as if he had let off one of Joe Manton's 
pistols in his mouth, or severed his head from his body 
with one of Mr. Palmer's best razors." 



B B 



CONCLUSION. 

OUR ancestors, on alighting from any of the prolonged 
journeys I have tried to describe, were used, being for- 
tunate people who lived when life was not at all hurry, 
to sit down quietly over a generous glass and take their 
case in their inn. We less fortunate descendants cannot 
do this now, because time is not permitted us, and we 
have no inns to take our ease in. We live in an age of 
hotels, where on touching an electric communicator 
everything but ease is to be had. 

However, though our ancestors' ease after travel may 
not be ours, we may be permitted some sort of retro- 
spection — such as was often theirs — over the long list 
of perils past, on many thousand miles of good, bad, or 
indifferent roads, in vehicles and company agreeably 
diversified — some final desultory chat on road-bills, 
coaches, horses, inns, to induce sleep or round the story. 

Of road-bills, then, to begin with, here arc one or two 
suggestive specimens — not connected with the roads on 
which we have been travelling, but none the less 
illustrative of Coaching Days and Coaching Ways for 
all that. 

"FROM THE SWAN WITH TWO NECKS IN LAD LANE. 
AUGUST, 1774. 

" A post-chaise to Gloucester in sixteen hours, and a Machine in one clay 
—each three days a week. A Machine to Hereford twice a week in a day 
and a half. A Machine to Salop every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 
in two days. A Machine for Wolverhampton every Sunday, Tuesday, and 
Thursday in one day. " 



CONCLUSION 371 

The same bill winds up with the following startling 
epilogue : — 

" The Rumsey Machine, through Winchester, hung on Steel Springs 
begins Flying on the 3rd of April from London to Poole in one day." 

Here is another characteristic announcement from the 
Daily Advertiser of April 9, 1739 : — 

" The Old Standing Constant Froom Flying Waggon, in three days, sets 
out, with goods and Passengers, from Froom for London every Monday by 
One o'clock in the morning, and will be at the King's Arms at Hoi born 
Bridge the Wednesday following by twelve o'clock noon, from whence it 
will Set Out on Thursday morning by One o'clock, for Amesbury, 
Shrewton, Chiltern, Heytesbury, Warminster, Froom : and all other 
places Adjacent : and will continue, allowing each person I4lbs, and be at 
Froom on Saturday by twelve at noon. If any passengers have any 
occasion to go from any of the aforesaid places, they shall be supplied with 
able horses, and a guide, by Joseph Chavey the Proprietor of the said 
Flying Waggon. The Waggon calls at the White Bear Piccadilly coming 
in and going out." 

Which reminds me that I have spoken a good deal about 
Flying Waggons and Machines, but have never described 
them, so that a brief description of their " more salient 
features " may here be in place. 

I read, then, that they were principally composed of a 
dull black leather, thickly studded by way of ornament 
with broad black-headed nails, tracing out the panels, in 
the upper tier of which were four oval windows, with 
heavy red wooden frames, or leather curtains. Upon the 
doors were displayed in large characters the names of 
the places whence the coach started, and where it was 
going to — another matter. The shape of the Flying 
Machine was a matter left much open to choice. You 
could ride in one shaped like a diving bell ; or in one the 
exact representation of a distiller's vat, hung equally 
balanced between immense back and front springs ; or 
in one made after the pattern of a violoncello-case — past 
all comparison the most fashionable shape. If my 
readers arc tempted to cry why this thusness, I can only 
say because these violoncello-like Flying Machines hungin 



372 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

a more graceful posture — namely, inclining on to the back 
springs — and gave those who sat within it " the appear- 
ance of a stiff Guy Fawkes uneasily seated." But this 
is a satiric touch, surely. To get on to the roofs, how- 
ever. These generally rose into a swelling curve, which 
was sometimes surrounded by a high iron guard, after 
the manner of our more modern four-wheeled cabs. 
The coachman and the guard (who always held his 
carbine ready cocked upon his knee — an attitude which 
must have made inside passengers wish they had insured 
their lives) then sat together over a very long and narrow 
boot which passed under a large spreading hammercloth 
hanging down on all sides, and furnished with a most 
luxuriant fringe. Behind the coach was the immense 
basket, stretching far and wide beyond the body to which 
it was attached by long iron bars or supports passing 
beneath it. I am not surprised to learn that these 
baskets were never very great favourites, though their 
difference of price caused them to be frequently filled — 
but another proof of needs must when the devil drives 

. And as for the motion of these Hying coaches 

when well on the road, it was " as a ship rocking or 
beating against a heavy sea ; straining all her timbers, 
with a low moaning sound as she drives over the con- 
tending waves." With which extraordinary simile we 
may leave Flying Machines behind us — and any de- 
scription of their successors too. For are not the models 
of the crack coaches in coaching's primestage to be seen 
every day in Piccadilly ? They are — and some very 
delightful rides can be had in them too. 

Not that travelling in these perfected turn-outs was 
always like riding on a bed of roses, as I have had occa- 
sion frequently to point out, which consideration brings 
me to the inevitable comparison of the advantages of rail 
versus road. On which great subject much can be said 
on both sides, as a celebrated Attorney-General for 
Honolulu once remarked. De Quinccy, for instance, 
may talk of the " fine fluent motion of the Bristol Mail," 



CONCLUSION 373 

and call up recollections in our minds of the modern 
Bristol Mail's motion as anything but fluent ; he may 
glorify " the absolute perfection of all the appointments 
about the carriage and the harness, their strength, their 
brilliant cleanliness, their beautiful simplicity, the royal 
magnificence of the horses ;" but here is another side to 
the picture. I quote from Hone's Table-books, an 
extract in the style of Jingle, and worthy of him. 

" STAGE COACH ADVENTURES. 

" Inside. — Crammed full of passengers — three fat fusty old men — a 
young Mother and sick child — a cross old maid — a poll parrot — a bag of 
red herrings — double-barrelled gun (which you are afraid is loaded) — and a 
snarling lap dog in addition to yourself. Awake out of a sound nap with 
the cramp in one leg and the other in a lady's bandbox — pay the damage 
(four or five shillings) for gallantry's sake — getting out in the dark at the 
half-way house, in the hurry stepping into the return coach and finding 
yourself next morning at the very spot you had started from the evening 
before — not a breath of air — asthmatic old woman and child with the 
measles — window closed in consequence — unpleasant smell —shoes filled 
with warm water — look up and find it's the child— obliged to bear it — no 
appeal — shut your eyes and scold the dog — pretend sleep and pinch the 
child — mistake — pinch the dog and get bit. — Execrate the child in return — 
black looks — no gentleman — pay the Coachman and drop a piece of gold 
in the straw — not to be found — fell through a crevice — Coachman says 'He'll 
find it.'— Can't — get out yourself — gone — picked up by the Ostler — no time 
for blowing up — Coach off for next stage — lose your money— get in — lose 
your seat— stuck in the middle — get laughed at — lose your temper — turn 
sulky — and turned over in a horse-pond." 

" Outside. — Your eye cut out by the lash of a clumsy Coachman's whip 
— hat blown off into a pond by a sudden gust of wind — seated between two 
apprehended murderers and a noted sheep-stealer in irons — who are being 
conveyed to gaol— a drunken fellow half asleep falls off the Coach — and in 
attempting to save himself drags you along with him into the mud — 
musical guard, and driver horn mad — turned over. — One leg under a bale 
of cotton — the other under the Coach — hands in breeches pockets — head in 
hamper of wine — lots of broken bottles versus broken heads. Cut and run 
— send for surgeon — wounds dressed — lotion and lint four dollars — take 
post-chaise — get home — lay down — and laid up." 

So much for coach travelling from a pessimistic 
point of view. And now a few words on the Coaching 
Inns. 

" There is no private house," said Johnson — it was in 



374 



COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 



the Old Chapel House inn in Oxfordshire, on the Bir- 
mingham Road, that he gave vent to the profoundity — 
"there is no place," he said, "at which people can enjoy 
themselves so well as at a capital tavern like this. Let 
there be ever so great a plenty of good things, ever so 
much grandeur, ever so much elegance, ever so much 




A l'eriormance on the Horn. 



desire that every guest should be easy, in the nature of 
things it cannot be. There must always be some degree 
of care and anxiety. The master of the house is anxious 
to entertain his friends ; these in their turn are anxious 
to be agreeable to him, and no one but a very impudent 
dog can as freely command what is in another man's 



CONCLUSION 375 

house as if he were in his own. Whereas at a tavern there 
is a general freedom from anxiety. You are sure you 
arc welcome, and the more noise you make, the more 
trouble you give, the more good things you call for, the 
welcomcr you are. No servants will attend you with the 
alacrity which waiters do, who are incited by the prospect 
of an immediate reward in proportion as they please. 
No, sir ; there is nothing which has yet been contrived 
by man by which so much happiness is produced as by a 
good tavern or inn." 

Hear, hear ! say I ; but while on the subject of inns 
may remark that I have been much disappointed in my 
ramblings ; in truth began some six years too late from this 
point of view. For in that interval the country has been 
deprived of many of its finest examples of this hospitable 
sort of architecture. Of those fine examples — few and 
far between — which still remain, many are now sinking 
into a state of irremediable disrepair — witness the great 
inn at Stilton for one — and will in the near fulness of 
time doubtless be improved altogether off the face of the 
earth. 

Some of these meanwhile on these direct roads of 
England which I have up to now treated of, have been 
preserved by a sympathetic artist's pencil, and the thought 
is so satisfactory a one that I propose to bestow on three 
other inns — not on the main roads, but magnificent 
houses still, the same enviable fate. 

At Norton St. Philip, then, in Somersetshire, seven 
miles south-east of Bath, there still stands in the George 
Inn, a half-timbered, fifteenth century house, of the finest 
possible type. Monmouth passed the night of June 26th, 
1685, at this George. He watched a skirmish between 
his outposts and Feversham's from the windows of the 
inn, was shot at while standing there for his pains, and 
marched upon Frome next day. At Glastonbury, in the 
same county, an inn of the same name — the George — 
with front one splendid mass of panelling, pierced where 
necessary for windows, the finest piece of domestic work 



376 COACHING DAYS AND COACHING WAYS 

in one of the most entrancing towns in England from an 
antiquary's point of view, dates from the fourth Edward ; 
while, to go further afield for a fine specimen of a differ- 
ent period, at Scole in Suffolk, the White Hart, erected 
in 1655 by John Peck, merchant, of Norwich, still retains 
some fine carving, and had till the end of the last cen- 
tury an enormous sign containing many figures — Diana 
and Actaeon, Charon, Cerberus and sundry other worthies, 
carved in wood by Fairchild, at a cost of .£1057. 

Such splendid monuments of road-travelling as these 
may fitly round this disjointed story of England's Coach- 
ing Days and Ways. In looking back over many miles 
covered and many incidents missed I find little cause for 
self-congratulation, save the fact that I have at least kept 
to my programme. I have traversed an obscure period 
carefully on well beaten tracks, and to my pioneers' 
assistance I hope I have always made due acknowledg- 
ment. To give an accurate, a statistical record of the 
prime age of coaching has been in most cases their object, 
and they have in most cases attained to it. If a minor 
measure of success attends my enterprise 1 shall be con- 
tent — content, that is to say, if I have caught some 
flavour of the romance of the Great Roads of England 
from the time when the Flying Machine of Charles the 
Second's age lumbered out of the Belle Sauvage Yard, up 
to the day when the Holyhead Mail via Shrewsbury, 
timed at eleven miles an hour, was our fathers' wonder, 
and the pride of this perfect road — " Mr. Bicknell's spicy- 
team of greys." 



THE END. 



Primed im Great Britain uy Richard Clay & Sons, Limited, 
bungay, suffolk. 



UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA LIBRARY, LOS ANGELES 

COLLEGE LIBRARY 

This book is due on the last date stamped below. 



f«25 6 3 






Aloviu 63 






Nov 18 63 






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MAR3il< 


170 






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Book Slip-10m-5,'58(372.7s4)4280 




UCU-Colf^. Library 

DA 600173c 1893 




L 005 765 047 5 



College 
Library 

DA 
600 
T73c 
1893 



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